The way to achieve safety for everyone starts with the community.
Safety does not start with police or jails or the justice system. That simple idea is behind Community First, which we launched in January as a pilot program. Created through a partnership with local non-profits in and around Times Square, Community First meets the needs of vulnerable individuals experiencing trauma, joblessness, living with mental illness, and/or substance use disorders who have ended up living on the streets. Our Community Navigators do this by working on meeting people's immediate needs, learning about their lives, building trusting relationships with them, and then making connections to services people say they want over time. The initiative focuses on prevention and providing support before individuals may have contact with police or the justice system.
The pilot has been a success, reaching hundreds of people with food, clothes, shelter, and access to an array of community-based services. We’ve just learned that New York City is providing funding to extend the program, allowing us to hire a team of outreach workers who have personally experienced involvement in the justice system, homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use disorder, or poverty. Their lived experiences will make this team of Community Navigators uniquely able to build trusting relationships with our most vulnerable community members.
The Center for Court Innovation launched Community First in partnership with the Times Square Alliance, Breaking Ground, and Fountain House so that law enforcement will no longer have to be the only response to mental health crises and homelessness. We are committed to co-creating solutions with community partners to achieve fairness and equity for everyone.
P.S. Read our piece in City Limits.