Richard Wright School in Strawberry Mansion, in the area that had the second-most calls to the new hotline

Philadelphia’s new 211 violence prevention hotline has received several hundred calls since launch, according to city officials, and people in areas most affected by gun violence were among the most likely to seek help.

From its late March 2022 debut through late December, 457 people called the violence prevention hotline, per the city.

Many were looking for help with other things — food, utilities, housing — but 194 of them, 42%, were specifically seeking violence prevention-related resources.

Ten trained “Resource Navigators” handle Philly calls to the around-the-clock service. It’s free and confidential, and four out of five callers accepted their offer to receive a follow-up to check if they received the needed help.

The line is an addition to 211, an already existing 24/7/365 call center operated by the United Way that points residents toward social services. Philadelphia’s offshoot is funded with $1.4 million in city dollars.

It’s a “resource hub and a preventative tool,” in the city’s words, meant to help people access things like conflict intervention services, counseling for crime victims and witnesses, youth violence prevention resources, and mentorship programs. (It is not an emergency line — if you’re witnessing a crime, 911 is still the place to call.)

Gun violence happens all over Philly, but it’s not evenly distributed, and people living in some of the areas most impacted took advantage of the new hotline.

Residents of 19140, which includes Nicetown-Tioga and Hunting Park, were the most likely to call in search of violence prevention-specific resources, according to officials. Last year, 268 shootings were recorded in that area — the second most of any zip code in the city.

People living in 19132 (Glenwood/Strawberry Mansion), which saw 174 shootings last year, were second-most likely to request resources via the hotline. The zip code with the most shootings in 2022, Kensington’s 19134, ranked ninth in anti-violence resource calls.

Philadelphia overall saw a slight drop in gun violence compared to 2021’s tragically record-setting year, but it’s still occurring at crisis levels. More than 510 people were killed last year, the grand majority by firearm. Of the more than 2,250 shooting victims recorded by the City Controller’s Office in 2022, about 1 in 5 of them died.

211 callers’ top needs included support for crime victims, outreach programs, bereavement and grief counseling, and neighborhood dispute resolution services, per a city spokesperson.

Resource navigators most frequently connected callers with the nonprofits Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, Mothers in Charge, and Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, and Philly311.

The dedicated gun violence prevention line is only available in Philadelphia, but general 211 resource navigators can also help people who live outside the city with violence-related issues.

Overall, the United Way-run 211 service fielded over 22,500 total requests from Philadelphia County residents since the end of March, per an online tracker called 211 Counts. The majority of callers were looking for resources related to either housing or utilities, per the dashboard.

Violence prevention hotline calls are included in the publicly available data, according to the city, but the way they’re categorized varies. For instance, calls about grief counseling are counted as mental health-related, while requests for youth violence prevention services are categorized as “other.”

City residents can reach the new violence prevention-specific line by calling 211 and pressing 3 when prompted.

You can also text your zip code to 898-211 or chat online with a resource navigator at 211sepa.org to get in touch.

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Asha Prihar

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...