(PITTSBURGH) June 22, 2022 – The Hear Foundation, a new nonprofit dedicated exclusively to fostering collaboration between law enforcement, city officials, community groups, and residents in order to build a safe, thriving community for all, launched today in Pittsburgh and announced the recipients of its inaugural Summer of Healing community grants.
The Hear Foundation (THF) is co-founded by international speaker, author, mental health advocate and police shooting survivor Leon Ford and Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, a 29-year veteran of the force. Their unlikely friendship – built over time, a foundation of mutual respect, and a shared passion for fostering healing and addressing the cycle of gun violence in Pittsburgh – is the genesis of THF.
Former Google executive Kamal Nigam will be the executive director of The Hear Foundation. He will be supported by a thoughtfully assembled, diverse group of more than three dozen leaders representing a cross-section of the community who recognize and support the need for police-community collaboration and have agreed to serve as a board of advisors. These include public safety and mental health professionals, activists, grassroots organizations, nonprofit directors, and CEOs. With their guidance and input, THF will convene, lead and fund initiatives that engage police and community together in co-creating strategies and solutions in three pillar areas: gun violence reduction, trauma, and workforce development.
“We have intentionally brought together individuals from varied backgrounds, points of view and life experiences to create our leadership team,” says The Hear Foundation Co-founder Leon Ford. “While we may not always agree, we will lead by example, showing that collaboration around the common goal of strengthening our communities and reducing gun violence is possible. My personal story as the survivor of a police shooting, the work I have done to share with others what I have learned about addressing trauma, and the relationships I have built with Chief Schubert and others are proof of concept. No matter what you have been through, collaboration is possible.”
“Many individuals and groups in our community have been working hard to respond to escalating gun violence and trauma in their neighborhoods, but they often work in isolation, and lack the resources and tools to have widespread impact,” says Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert. “As a new community partner, The Hear Foundation will come alongside these groups to fill the support gaps, and through collaboration with law enforcement and experts in trauma, mental health, and public safety, will help build stronger, safer communities for all. We are all Pittsburghers and there isn’t anything we can’t do when we come together as one.”
THF will award three inaugural community microgrants this summer with the support of a $75,000 grant from Heal America. The Summer of Healing projects that will be supported in the areas of gun violence reduction, trauma, and workforce development are:
- Support Voices Against Violence, Hope 4 Tomorrow, and Youth Enrichment Services summer camps. Each free, six-week camp provides programs focused on holistic care of the child, academic achievement, wellbeing, self-empowerment, and community service. The project will embed community engagement police officers every week in the programs, engaging young people in discussions on topics such as police reform, public safety concerns, careers in law enforcement, processing prior police encounters, and media portrayals of police and youth. In addition, Imagine Further, an organization of local experts on mental health education for youth, will join the youth camps for weekly sessions to help participants develop their support systems, positive coping skills, and resiliency. To facilitate these positive interactions, five young adults will be hired to serve as ambassadors accompanying officers to summer camp visits.
- Support the hiring of five youth to develop a safety plan for Perry High School, in conjunction with a school social worker and a nonprofit leader focused on violence prevention. The project will provide a workplace experience for safety-engaged youth who will develop a school-wide plan to create after-school safe passages, recruit student safety ambassadors and build connections to mediate conflict before they escalate. Pittsburgh police will participate to build relationships and introduce the concepts of relationship-based policing.
- Provide support to the Center for Victims to host 15 summer workshops that will train 150 leaders community leaders in the science and impact of trauma and share tools and strategies to build wellbeing and resilience. Workshops will provide an understanding of the impacts of trauma from violence, abuse, chronic adversity, toxic stress and social inequities on children, adults, families, and communities. Participants will include grassroots community leaders.
“The Hear Foundation Summer of Healing projects provide an opportunity to support healing, change, and immediate impact in our communities and among our young people,” says The Hear Foundation Executive Director Kamal Nigam. “Each project aligns with our vision to create a safe and thriving Pittsburgh where residents and police collaborate on solutions and strategies from a foundation of trusted relationships and authentic engagement, and with the goals established in Mayor Gainey’s recently announced Plan for Peace. We recognize that engagement will not happen unless we are willing to come together and listen to one another despite our differences. This focus on listening is what underpins our name, The Hear Foundation, and will drive our efforts going forward.”
In the coming months, The Hear Foundation will focus on convening events, and building consensus around strategies and its next set of community microgrants.
“No one single person, group, or administration can tackle the issue of violence in our city alone,” said Mayor Ed Gainey. “We need strong community partnerships working and moving together in order to create peace in our city, and help provide new economic opportunities so we can transform Pittsburgh into a welcome, safe, and thriving city for everyone.”
The Hear Foundation is supported by The Buhl Foundation, The Forbes Funds, Heal America, the Elsie M. Hillman Foundation, Jones Day, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, with fiscal sponsorship by the POISE Foundation. To learn more or to sign up for news and updates from The Hear Foundation, visit hearfoundation.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.