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It's tough to put a value on prevention

The street workers associated with the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence in Providence have been doing important work in reducing violence since they emerged on the scene in 2003, so it was good to hear about their receipt earlier this week of $352,000 in federal money. As those in the field know, making the case for prevention-based programs is always difficult, because it's hard to document those shootings and murders that don't happen.

I wrote about the street workers program in 2003:

IN SOME WAYS, the street workers seem to face daunting odds. Guns are easy to find in Providence, shots are fired virtually on a nightly basis (even if no one is hurt), and the conditions that influence violent crime — include poverty and longstanding beefs — aren’t easily remedied. Still, after shadowing the street workers in their rounds on two recent nights, it’s hard not to have a sense that they’ve accomplished a lot in a short period of time. Everywhere they go, it seems, they know the players, the terrain, the history, and what’s at stake.

As noted in the ProJo's coverage, the situation is complicated by the foreclosure crisis and by cuts in state-funded social programs.

Teny Gross, the institute’s executive director, said that the Streetworkers Program is the only one in the country that does not receive state or city funding. Instead, it is dependent on grants and private donations.

Gross said that the federal grant money couldn’t come soon enough. He said that the poor economy, foreclosures on homes and budget cuts have created “the perfect storm” for a violent summer.

“The poor need us most when the times are tough,” he said. “The poor need us now.”

A few months ago, Gross and two of the streetworkers traveled to Northern Ireland to work with youths in Belfast. Streetworkers also have testified before Congress about gang violence and two weeks ago the city of Los Angeles called the institute seeking advice for its outreach workers.

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