Promise Zone Blog

Panel on Gun Violence and Unemployment

By Pascal Cristofalo

On August 24th, Billy Penn and Ceasefire PA hosted a community forum to discuss “How Jobs Prevent Violence.” Panelists Siddiq Moore, the owner of Siddiq’s Water Ice, Soneyet Muhammed, director of workforce development at Drexel University, and Michael Thorpe, executive director of Mt. Vernon Manor CDC, came together outside of Siddiq’s West Philly business to unpack how workforce development and the city’s $155 million anti-violence budget can be leveraged to reduce the high levels of gun violence Philadelphia is experiencing.

There have been 1,503 shooting victims in Philadelphia so far in 2021. That is 14.6% higher than this time last year, which was already 53.2% up from 2019. While unemployment rates have been steadily declining from the 19.5% high in July 2020, a recent study from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has noted that the zip codes with the highest numbers of shooting victims, home to predominantly Black and Latinx residents, have the highest levels of chronic male unemployment. The report mentions that “while poverty and unemployment are linked, we focus on chronic unemployment because studies suggest that joblessness is more strongly related to crime than poverty alone.”

Amongst the panelists, Muhammed discussed the importance of hiring local residents who can hold an organization accountable for its impact on the community in which it resides. She also noted the importance of investing in the residents one hires: “You have to be ready and have the capacity to train… And if you’re not willing to do that type of work, then you need to take a step back.”

Moore and Thorpe talked about having constructive outlets for young men’s ambitions. Small businesses hiring locally and community organizations can offer structure and an avenue for youth to invest in themselves and their futures. Thorpe noted that the presence of these organizations can serve as point of contact for communities to reach these young men and bring them into the collective.

When the conversation turned toward community organizations, a clear concern about the city’s approach took shape. While the city has allocated $155 million to anti-violence efforts, both panelists and attendees expressed concerns about the accessibility of this funding and its successful distribution to community organizations. As Moore concluded, smaller community institutions “might not have the paper trail, but they have the credibility. Their work is already being seen in the community amongst the regular people.”

Congrats to PACDC Award Winners!

As part of its Annual Gala & Awards Ceremony on April 25th, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) will honor several community leaders, organizations, and professionals working to build an equitable Philadelphia. We are so excited that Promise Zone residents and partners are among this year’s honorees!

De’Wayne Drummond, President of the Mantua Civic Association, and Callalily Cousar, President of the East Parkside Residents Association, are winners of the Community Leader Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. De’Wayne Drummond was born and raised in Mantua. He is committed to the Mantua Civic Association’s mission of improving the quality of life for all residents in Mantua, especially children, youth, and families. Callalily Cousar has lived in the area since 1947. She’s passionate about making sure neighborhood children and youth are served by and involved in their community.

Tya Winn, who works for Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia and is co-chair of the Promise Zone Housing Committee, received the Rising Star Award for PACDC Members under 40.

Last but not least, Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) Coordinators throughout the city got a shout-out in the Community Development Champion Award for Outstanding Leadership and Dedication in Advancing the Field. In the Promise Zone, our local NAC Coordinators are Kevin Brown at People’s Emergency Center, Lorraine Gomez at Mount Vernon Manor, and Jamar Bordley at The Enterprise Center. They can connect you to help for paying property taxes or utility bills, finding employment programs, signing up for benefits, addressing unsafe vacant lots and building, and much more.

Congratulations to all these amazing leaders!

How to: Requesting a Promise Zone Letter of Support, HUD form, and etc.

Are you thinking of applying for a funding opportunity? Let us know as soon as you can. We need 5 days to process your requests. Here is information about our grant and funding support process:

  1. Applicant contacts the Promise Zone at PZone@phila.govfor a Letter of Support (LOS) and fills out a Proposed Outcomes Form (POF) at least 5 days in advance.
  2. Applicant returns the POF, along with any additional information requested to Promise Zone staff.
  3. Promise Zone staff reviews and inputs the POF information into the Promise Zone grants database.
  4. Upon approval, a Promise Zone staff emails a signed LOS, HUD form, or etc. back to the applicant.
  5. Promise Zone staff will follow up with applicant after the expected notification date. The applicant will indicate grant status.

Click here to download a Proposed Outcomes Form (POF)

Examining Health and Housing Partnerships in the Promise Zone

By: John McLaughlin

The West Philadelphia Promise Zone contains both large hospitals and an aging housing stock that is deteriorating in condition. Many households struggle to make ends meet and are unable to make repairs on their own that will make their homes healthier. Many homes have mold, mildew, lead paint, and pests, which lead to one in four children in West Philadelphia having asthma. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), to address the high rates of childhood asthma, started the Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP) in 1997. CAPP, through grant funding and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MMCO) partnerships, offers free in-home asthma education and provides supplies to mitigate environmental triggers for Philadelphia’s neediest families. In mid-December, an expansion of the program titled CAPP+ was announced where CHOP is partnering with the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) to remediate West Philadelphia homes by professionally repairing areas of the home that cause asthma symptoms. A recent pilot study found that asthma remediation projects that cost, on average, $3,500 lowered children’s hospitalizations by seventy percent and school absences by fifty percent (Feyler, Nan, “The Impact of Housing Quality on Children’s Health.” Philadelphia Department of Public Health, 2015.)

In addition to the CAPP+ program, CHOP has joined Rebuilding Together Philadelphia (RTP), Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Philadelphia, LISC, People’s Emergency Center (PEC), and Mount Vernon Manor (MVM) to build upon their already-existing Housing Preservation Initiative (HPI). Together, they partnered under an expanded umbrella called the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living to apply for and receive funding through the BUILD Health Challenge, a grant awarded to multi-sector partnerships that seek to reduce health disparities caused by social inequities. During the years before CHOP’s inclusion, HPI had been identifying homes in the Promise Zone with adverse health triggers and remediating them along with completing other critical repair work. People’s Emergency Center (PEC)’s Community Connectors and the MVM Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) Coordinator do outreach and engage residents in the HPI program. Under BUILD, families in CHOP’s CAPP program are referred to the group for repairs that focus on reducing asthma triggers. CAPP also sends their Community Health Workers to simultaneously provide in-home asthma reduction education. The ultimate goal of both CAPP+ and the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living is to drastically reduce the incidence of and Emergency Room Utilization due to asthma. The collaborative is hoping that health and repair providers can eventually seek reimbursement by managed care organizations (like Medicaid or other insurers) for home visits and repairs.

The Home Preservation for Healthy Living is always looking for eligible residents. Participants must be referred through CHOP’s CAPP program (participants have children with severe asthma). Households must own the home where they reside and make no more than eighty percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Children who are admitted to the hospital once in the past year (or in the Emergency Department twice in the past year) for asthma and are prescribed an asthma controller medicine are eligible for CAPP. CAPP will then determine if the family is eligible for the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living and if so, connect them to the program.

Earlier in December, housing and health professionals across the country gathered at Thomas Jefferson University for a Health and Housing Summit organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC). The keynote speakers were Dr. Kelly Kelleher, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Sister Mary Scullion, a Philadelphia icon that co-founded Project HOME, a national model for reaching and serving the homeless. Ninety-five percent of people experiencing homelessness that fully participate in Project HOME’s programs never return to the streets. In 2008, Nationwide Children’s Hospital began collaborating with Community Development for All People, a local CDC, and several other community partners to develop the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families (HNHF) initiative, which seeks to treat local neighborhoods as patients. HNHF is now becoming a shining example of what large-scale, sustained investment by a hospital in its surrounding communities could look like. You can learn more about HNHF here and read Nationwide’s “Community Update” on the project here. Key representatives of HPI and CAPP+ spoke about their programs at the summit, many of whom are members of or have spoken at Promise Zone committees. Considering the multi-sector nature of our work in the Promise Zone, we look forward to further developing partnerships between health institutions and local housing organizations in the future!

If you’re interested in receiving home repairs but are ineligible for the CAPP or CAPP+ programs, two HPI partners, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia and Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia are doing repairs in the Promise Zone. Homeowners interested in receiving repairs from Rebuilding Together Philadelphia can collect signatures from 10-15 homeowners on their block and submit a block application together. Rebuilding Together Philadelphia does not accept applications from individual homeowners. The block application can be found on the Rebuilding Together Philadelphia’s website ( and phone inquiries should be directed to 215-965-0777. If you want to apply individually for repairs you can go to Habitat for Humanity’s website ( or call Habitat directly at 215-765-6000 x 18 and leave your contact information.

Promise Zone Community Gardens

  1. Summer Winter Community Garden (3233 Race St): They have an active City Harvest program and welcome volunteers to work in garden on community areas. Stop by on weekends to learn more.
  2. West Powelton Concerned Community Council Garden (4027 Powelton Ave): Plots available!, 215-387-8951
  3. Holly Street Community Garden (320 N 41st St): Plots Available! Sheila Henry, 215-387-0507,,
  4. Walnut Hill (4615 Ludlow St): 215-895-4050
  5. Aspen Farms (4843 Aspen St):
  6. Mill Creek Farm (4905 Brown St): Volunteer opportunities available!
  7. Ogden Orchard (4033 Ogden St): A complete edible landscape was planted around Ogden Gardens, a newly built home for adults with autism. Preston’s Paradise and residents of Ogden help maintain the orchard and gardens and the harvest is distributed within the community.
  8. Preston’s Paradise Orchard (839 N Preston St): Cherries, figs, pawpaws, and more were planted as part of a new edible forest garden at this remarkable urban homestead. The produce enhances the efforts of Preston’s Paradise ( to expand food production and access in their neighborhood of West Philadelphia.
  9. Calvary Orchard (812 N 41st St): Calvary St. Augustine Church teamed up with POP and Preston’s Paradise to plant an orchard in the side yard of the church. Produce will be distributed within the Belmont community.
  10. CHOP Karabots Farm (4900 Market St): This new community farm operated by the Enterprise Center is located at the Karabots facility of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The farm features fruit trees and rows of berries and vines.
  11. University City Garden Club Garden (4400 Locust St): No vegetable plots, this is a flower garden. Twilight gardening from 6-9pm on Fridays during growing season. Volunteers welcomed!, Lauren Leatherbarrow 215-386-3905,
  12. Mantua Urban Peace Garden (3700 Brown St): 50 Plots Plots are $20 each for the season (April to November). If you’re interested in becoming a gardener, you can sign up for a plot until April 15 by contacting 215-475-9492 or emailing
  13. Wiota Street Community Garden (4022 Powelton Ave)
  14. Sloan St Community Garden (326 N Sloan St): Vegetable/Flower Garden Plots: 4 feet x 8 feet or 4’x4′ half plot. Common areas with both vegetable and flowers for sharing or growing food for community. Carolyn Smith, (215) 387-5852,


If none of these gardens are near you or if you know of a vacant lot you think would be perfect for a garden in the next planting season, get started on your own community garden today! There are many resources for starting your own Philadelphia garden, below are just a few.

General Instructions from the American Community Gardening Association:

Resources for starting your own garden in Philadelphi9a from Grounded in Philly:

Instructions for starting a garden on Philadelphia

PWD instructions on how to get water access:

Health and Homes

By: Elizabeth Cohen

Across the country there is renewed awareness of the importance of mitigating home health hazards. Some of the most common home health hazards include lead, mold, radiation and asbestos. Often these hazards are expensive to alleviate, yet we know that the effects not only exacerbate problems with peoples’ health, there are also significant economic impacts. Both the health and economic impacts are even greater for low income families. The graphic below shows housing hazards, the resulting health effects and the economic impacts. MORE

Modern-Day Redlining in Philadelphia and the Promise Zone


Photo Credit: Ian Freimuth/ via Creative Commons

By: Elizabeth Cohen

In February 2018, Reveal published a story on the large racial differences in home lending (also known as modern-day redlining) across the United States. Reveal did a national analysis of lending patterns using conventional mortgage records in 2015 and 2016.

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made redlining illegal, Reveal’s analysis showed that there were differences by race in who were offered conventional loans. They found that Philadelphia has one of the largest racial gaps in home lending among large cities.  Read the full story here.

Redlining in Philadelphia

  • Black applicants in Philadelphia were almost three times more likely to be denied a conventional home purchase loan than white applicants.
  • White applicants were ten times more likely to receive conventional mortgages loans than black applicants.
  • Banks focused on serving the white parts of town, placing nearly three-quarters of their branches in white-majority neighborhoods.
  • Wells Fargo Bank denied 27 percent of conventional home purchase applications from black applicants and 9 percent from white applicants.
  • Santander Bank denied 37 percent of black applicants and 13 percent of white ones.
  • PNC Bank denied 44 percent of black applicants and 15 percent of white applicants.


The Promise Zone Research Connection Takes First Place!

The Promise Zone Research Connection Takes First Place!

On Friday April 27, 2018, Penn’s Community Scholars Program had its Spring Symposium that brought together leaders of academic and philanthropic communities to serve on the panel for the Scholar’s Pitch Competition. Dennis Boroughs (Baring Street Community) and Amanda Hallock (Promise Zone VISTA) represented the Promise Zone Research Connection (PZRC). After deliberation, the panel gave first place honors to the PZRC which includes a bit of funding to get the group started! Below we’ve written up the speech for those who couldn’t make it.


Promise Neighborhood Surveyor Interview

By: Amanda Hallock

Surveyors: Sherra Dunn, Jeffrey Jordan, Rita Nelson, Kevin D. Young, Hyden Terrell                            Project Manager: Kelly Traister

The Promise Neighborhood grant is well underway! The grant is $30 million over 5 years and the Department of Education requires Drexel University, the lead applicant, to have rigorous data collection and evaluation. One of the components of this is a biennial neighborhood survey.

To conduct the survey, Drexel has prioritized hiring Promise Zone residents (the Zone and Neighborhood share the same boundaries) and in doing so has seemed to have more success in survey collection. The Promise Zone resident surveyors know their neighborhood culture and have the important ability to gain trust more easily than a non-resident would. And don’t forget about their fantastic orange jackets! Besides being residents and dressed in orange, the surveyors are just all around fantastic. They have great energies and are passionate about the project. I discovered this and so much more when I sat down to talk with five of the surveyors in February. MORE

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