Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)

The Town Impact Center: A Model to End Community Violence

Crime prevention

The goal of The Town Impact Center project is to provide an innovative, collaborative solution to intergenerational violence, crime, and poverty in Oakland.

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Lead Organization

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)

Berkeley, California, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Disparities in wealth, health, education, and housing are all forms of structural violence—and they perpetuate the cycle of individual violence. BOSS has developed an innovative, evidence-based program to disrupt the cycle of poverty, crime, mass incarceration, and violence in Oakland’s most distressed communities. Our trauma-informed model, based on expert problem analysis, involves hiring and training formerly incarcerated/gang-involved individuals to: (1) provide direct outreach to gang members in high-profile street organizations and engage them in social enterprise opportunities; and, (2) enact systems-level changes to reduce barriers to community reentry and advance economic security and social justice. The model relies on an integrated network of trusted public-private partner organizations who will employ a collective impact approach to improving violence prevention and intervention service delivery. The network will operate Neighborhood Impact Centers embedded in Oakland’s most violent neighborhoods to provide intensive education, employment, housing, healthcare, financial assistance, legal and case management services.

Problem Statement

Oakland (population 425,000) is one of the most diverse and ethnically integrated urban cities in the nation. It is also one of the most dangerous. Historical and structural inequalities still plague some of the most distressed communities in the City, resulting in unacceptable rates of violence and incarceration. Gun violence in Oakland has claimed over 100 lives each year since the late 1960s. In 2012, Oakland was named “the most dangerous city in the nation” with 165 people killed. Since then, the City has invested in violence prevention strategies, which have successfully contributed to reducing homicides in Oakland by 40%+ since the all-time high in 2012. However, violence remains the most destructive problem in our city, with 340 shootings and 63 gun-involved homicides in 2017. Violence is concentrated in four distinct areas of our city - Deep East, East, West, and Central. These neighborhoods are historically and predominantly Black and Latinx, extremely low-income, and scarred by decades of racial discrimination and disinvestment in the local economy and schools. The systemic disinvestment in these neighborhoods deepens the racial and ethnic disparities in economic, education, housing, and health outcomes, perpetuating the cycle of poverty, crime, and violence. For instance, only one-third of Oakland residents are Black but they represent 75% of Oakland’s homicide victims. Oakland’s Black youth are particularly vulnerable to these disparities, as they were 112 times more likely to be arrested on felony charges than White youth in 2017.

Solution Overview

BOSS proposes to employ individuals with lived experience (formerly incarcerated/gang members) to act as community change agents to help individuals most at-risk escape the cycle of violence. A key feature of the project design is an integrated Hub-and Spoke model for community engagement and service delivery. Staff will be deployed directly from Neighborhood Impact Centers (the Spokes) to the community. Credible Messengers will provide direct outreach to gang members to influence them to engage in social enterprise opportunities. Cultural Influencers will develop relationships with local organizations and government to enact systems-level changes to reduce barriers to community reentry, increase access to services, and ensure program sustainability.The program will operate an innovative 24/7 mobile crisis unit to deploy behavioral health experts for non-emergency crises. Mobile Crisis Response Teams will provide a non-policing approach to crisis intervention, conflict mediation, non-emergency medical care, service referral, and transportation. Credible Messengers and the Crisis Response Teams will provide a warm-handoff to service providers at one of four Neighborhood Impact Centers, which will be located in neighborhoods with the highest concentration of violence. A Training and Engagement Center will operate as the “Hub.” The Impact Centers will operate 365 days/year for drop-in services to all community members and will offer wraparound supports, including case management; education; employment; housing navigation and placement; benefit enrollment; behavioral/primary healthcare; childcare and transportation assistance; emergency financial assistance; legal aid; and referrals. We anticipate serving over 2,500 individuals through the Impact Centers each year.

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Project Funders

  • California Board of State and Community Corrections 2019 - 2022
  • Alameda County Probation Department 2020 - 2021
  • Oakland Unite 2020 - 2021

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