2018 Community Partnership Award


READI Chicago

Mass shootings in places like Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada, capture national attention, but gun violence is an everyday occurrence in many communities across the country. In Chicago, more than 2,000 people have been shot in 2018 – more than eight individuals each day – according to data from the Chicago Tribune.

Heartland Alliance, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to advancing the human rights of marginalized populations around the world, formed a partnership in 2016 with the University of Chicago Crime and Poverty Labs and six other service organizations to address the root causes of gun violence in four of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. Their Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI Chicago) recognizes that many individuals at a high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence lack access to mental-health counseling, life-skills support, and job training and placement.

Launched in the fall of 2017 with a goal of decreasing shootings and homicides among men who are most at risk of violence involvement, READI Chicago relentlessly engages these individuals through a groundbreaking program that pairs paid employment up to 29 hours per week with regular participation in individual and group-based cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching and other support services. At the end of 18 months, participants can access an additional six months of case management and coaching to help them successfully transition to unsubsidized employment.

The early results have been promising. “As of mid-September 2018, 672 individuals are actively participating in the program,” said Evelyn Diaz, President of Heartland Alliance. “Of those, 267 have started transitional employment and 70% consistently show up for work. This is notable because many are coping with significant trauma and other issues that can create barriers to long-term success.”

The University of Chicago Crime and Poverty Labs are conducting an evaluation of READI Chicago to determine its impact. “We believe the results could significantly influence approaches to violence reduction and public safety spending in Chicago and other cities across the country,” said Diaz.


Heartland Alliance


READI Chicago


University of Chicago Crime and Poverty Labs Various outreach partners