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United Way and Erie Community Foundation jointly fund Unified Erie


Thanks to an unprecedented collaboration between United Way of Erie County and The Erie Community Foundation, a grant of $1.2 million was awarded to the Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC) today to address community violence and help create a safer future for all people in the Erie region.


The three-year grant will be used by GECAC to implement the Unified Erie plan for a community call-in strategy and provide significant levels of assistance to at-risk youth and ex-offenders interested in reentering civil society.


“This is the first time our respective organizations have joined forces to jointly fund a high-need community project,” said Foundation president Michael L. Batchelor.  


“As funders, we typically require our grantees to collaborate in delivering service. The Foundation and United Way boards feel strongly we need to model this behavior and come together to address this critical community need,” added United Way president Bill Jackson.


Grant funding will allow GECAC to create and manage the Erie County Reentry Services and Support Alliance (ECRSSA). Working together, this group will implement a proven strategy to significantly reduce violent and other crimes. This strategy has been successful in several other communities such as Kansas City, Boston, Cincinnati and Lancaster.


The alliance will provide support and services to ex-offenders and at-risk youth through a network of community- and faith-based organizations in partnership with the criminal justice system.


Erie’s 2015 gun crime statistics included 272 shots fired, 54 people struck by gunfire and 7 of 10 homicides resulting from gunfire. “The escalation of gun violence in neighborhoods throughout the city is of growing concern,” said Batchelor. “Particularly alarming is the decreasing age of those involved in firearm incidents.”


Unified Erie’s framework follows a three-prong approach:  prevention, enforcement and reentry.  “Approximately 1,250 people per year return to Erie County from prison, and 58% re-offend within three years,” said Jackson.  


The strategy includes offering a “one stop shop” to reentry clients for case management, mentoring and other services. Law enforcement agencies and social service providers will focus attention on two groups: (1) those who are at high risk for committing crimes and are associated with violent gangs, but want to reenter society through a law-abiding life; and (2) those who are returning to the community from incarceration.  


“Finding and taking advantage of the resources the community offers can be challenging, particularly for those who have been incarcerated or embedded in a criminal network,” said Batchelor. “Without gaining the appropriate support, many individuals will continue to operate in criminal networks or return to a life of crime after transition from incarceration.”


The success of the Unified Erie strategy requires an unprecedented level of collaboration and communication among city, county, state and federal systems, including law enforcement, corrections, and services already in place.


“The average cost of incarceration is approximately $75 per day, whereas case management services and intensive programming will cost approximately $24 per day,” added Jackson.


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On behalf of the residents of Erie County, United Way brings the community together to provide resources that help people in need or at risk solve their problems.


The Erie Community Foundation works to improve the quality of life for all in our region by evaluating and addressing community issues, building permanent charitable endowments and promoting philanthropic and community leadership.