Quad Cities Community Foundation grants $300,000 for reducing gun violence with GVI

The grant is a three-year Transformation Grant meant to help reach more people and deepen the connections they’ve already made in the program.
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 10:44 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The Quad Cities Community Foundation is granting $300,000 for funding Davenport Police Department’s Group Violence Intervention strategy to stop violent crime.

The grant is a three-year transformation grant meant to help reach more people and deepen the connections they’ve already made in the program.

A large part of the transformation grant will have Family Resources dedicate an existing staff member solely to GVI outreach and follow-up. A smaller share will furnish honoraria to community members, who have volunteered their time and talents to participate in custom notifications.

The grant will also fund research and evaluation by St. Ambrose University’s Institute for Person-Center Care, an interdisciplinary body combining public health and criminal justice, to measure GVI’s effectiveness and lay the groundwork for additional funding opportunities in the future, a must for the strategy’s long-term sustainability.

GVI brings together law enforcement, social services, and credible community voices with a unified message—”we want to see you safe, alive, and out of prison”—to reach people at the highest risk of violent offending or victimization.

“You don’t usually see law enforcement, social services, and community members show up together,” said Tee LeShoure, who leads Family Resources’ Survivors of Homicide and Other Violent Crimes team. “When all three collaborate together, it sends a different message. It’s a different dynamic. It’s something I’ve never seen before.”

During what is called “custom notifications,” a team of representatives from the police, Family Resources, and the community approach people to open lines of direct and respectful communication. The goal of the meetings is for everyone involved to convey the message that the violence must stop and make a sincere offer of help, setting the stage for Family Resources to provide those victims or offenders with highly individualized trauma-informed social services. As a last resort, law enforcement reserves strategic consequences if someone continues to engage in gun violence after the meeting.

Dwayne Hodges has worked with the Davenport Police Department and the nonprofit Family Resources as a community volunteer for eight months with GVI to roll out the program and help turn the tide on gun violence in the Quad Cities community.

“I want to be a voice to those who have had adversity come into their lives,” said Hodges, who is a community organizer, a certified substance abuse counselor, and a pastor. “Being someone with reach in the community and a personal backstory helps me help others look at life from a different perspective.”

According to police, the team behind GVI has successfully contacted 75 at-risk people since the program launched in the spring of 2022. Of the people reached as of December, only three went on to be involved in gun violence afterward.

“Sometimes you can look at the headlines and feel like this is a problem we’re never going to wrap our arms around, but that’s not true,” said Sarah Ott, the City of Davenport’s chief strategy officer. “We can, and we are.”

In Davenport, just 0.19 percent of the population is involved in roughly 55 percent of the city’s gun violence, meaning that carefully calibrated outreach can go a long way toward addressing the problem, according to police. Violent victimization and offending disproportionately impacts Black males aged 19 to 34, a group typically underserved by social services and facing many systemic disadvantages. In many cases, victims become offenders and offenders become victims in a cycle of violence.

“If you want things to change—if you want the violence to stop, if you want to transform lives—you have to be a part of the solution,” added Hodges. “This is a different way of helping people. We are giving people a hand up to help make changes in their lives, and sometimes they just need to hear somebody say, ‘I care about you.’ That’s what GVI is doing.”

According to Quad Cities Community Foundation, the grants are made possible by donors who give to the foundation’s Quad Cities Community Impact Fund.

“Complex community challenges like this can only be solved through collaboration,” said Sue Hafkemeyer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We’re excited to see an innovative tool for promoting racial equity and ensuring our community is safe for everybody who calls it home. By supporting this effort now, we believe we can transform it into the wider regional strategy needed, activating the entire community together.”