Seeking Peace in Philly

Philly Rec Centers to Get Gun Violence Trauma Counseling Program

In an effort to combat the impact of gun violence on youth and families, a new trauma counseling program will be coming to six rec centers and 12 Parks and Rec summer camps

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Already, just four months into the year, Philadelphia has seen at least 127 homicides due to gun violence, according to gun violence data collected by the city's controller's office.

In the more than 500 shootings that have occurred this year, at least 10-percent of victims have been children under the age of 18.

In fact, just a few days ago, Philadelphia's City Council heard from a representative of the public school district, who reported that 107 students, active in the district and under the age of 18, have been shot this year alone.

And, 21 of those students have died.

With this issue in mind, on Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney joined a number of local lawmakers in order to detail a program aimed at helping young people and families who have been impacted by gun violence.

During a visit to Tustin Recreation Center, in the city's Overbrook neighborhood, Kenney discussed the need for trauma services in a city scarred by youth gun violence.

"Sadly, and far too often, violence and trauma prevent young people from reaching their full potential," he said.

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With an influx of $999,000 -- through a grant to the Center for Families and Relationships from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency -- Philadelphia will see the Together Through Trauma program brought to six rec centers and 12 Parks and Recreation summer camps.

The mayor said that the program attempts to "break the cycle" of gun violence in communities throughout the city in order to "allow families to heal."

“Recreation centers, parks, and playgrounds are a vital part of life for young people in our City,” Kenney said. “Offering youth and families impacted by violence access to mental health services at the rec is a great way to meet young people where they are, with the services they need. As we expand access to rec centers through more weekend hours and make improvements to recreational facilities through Rebuild, the Together Through Trauma program complements these efforts.”

Rec centers that will get the Together Through Trauma program are: Feltonville Recreation Center, in Feltonville, Mallery Recreation Center in East Germantown, Tustin Recreation Center in Overbrook, Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center in North Philadelphia, Mander Playground in North Philadelphia and 8th and Diamond Playground in North Philadelphia.

Officials said this programming would "provide evidence-based trauma counseling and trauma education to residents impacted by violence," by assigning trauma therapists to each rec center, as well as offering one-on-one sessions with the therapist, group workshops and training for rec center staff.

The overall goal of the program, officials said, is to "decrease the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms for those residents directly or indirectly impacted by gun violence."

In discussing the need for services like these, City Councilperson Curtis Jones Jr., recalled the shooting death of Zamar Jones, a 7-year-old boy who died after being hit by a stray bullet while he was playing with toys on his porch.

Jones said that he saw the stress from that boy's death in the reactions of his family after the shooting. He worried that they might have needed help to process the pain they were feeling.

"I'm excited about it no longer being vogue to suffer in silence," said Jones. "This is a real thing that might help to break the cycle of hurt people hurting others."

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