How Two Local Health Foundations Are Fighting Gang Violence in Los Angeles

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the county and city of Los Angeles are the “gang capital” of America. There are over 450 active gangs in the city, comprised of over 45,000 members, and there have been more than 16,398 verified violent gang crimes in the city in the last three years.

To help curb persistent gang issues in the city, local foundations that don't even typically focus on violence prevention grantmaking are getting involved. Several health funders have been putting a priority on programs that keep recreation centers and parks open late to keep at-risk teens active and involved.

The UniHealth Foundation recently awarded a $50,000 grant to the GRYD Foundation, a public charity that aims to reduce violent crime and gang violence in the city of Los Angeles. UniHealth’s grant will be going toward summer recreational and cultural programs at 32 locations across Los Angeles. These programs are part of a GRYD initiative and violence reduction strategy called Summer Night Lights.

Specifically, the UniHealth funds will support five sites located near the Fremont High School family of schools, including Imperial Courts Recreation Center, Nickerson Gardens Recreation Center and Jordan Downs Recreation Center (Read UniHealth Foundation: Los Angeles Grants).

Earlier this summer, the California Wellness Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to the GRYD Foundation to prevent gang violence in three public housing developments in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. This is a six-month grant that will also support the Summer Night Lights program as a gang violence prevention strategy (Read California Wellness Foundation: Los Angles Grants).

In both instances, these local health funders have crossed over into the realm of violence prevention in favor of extended and expanded park and recreation programs. The Summer Night Lights (SNL) program keeps parks and centers open until 11 pm during the summer months that are traditionally most plagued by gang violence, and also hires at-risk teenagers to work those hours. Between June 26, 2013, and August 10, 2013, there was a 34.4 percent reduction in gang-related crimes for all SNL locations combined. There was a 73.1 percent reduction in gang-related crimes at these locations between August 16, 2013 and September 6, 2013.

Other local funders, including the Annenberg Foundation, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, and the Rose Hills Foundation have provided support to the GRYD Foundation in recent years.

The UniHealth Foundation does not have a violence prevention program area, and primarily focuses grantmaking on hospitals and health-specific causes. This UniHealth grant was made as part of the foundation’s General Purpose Fund, which does accept unsolicited Letters of Intent throughout the year.

The California Wellness Foundation has been awarding quite a few violence prevention grants lately, including grants to the Children’s Initiative in San Diego, the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department Five Keys Charter School. CWF violence prevention grants have been in the $40,000 to $370,000 range. CWF will announce its new grants program on October 1 which is when the new issues prioritized for funding will be released.