Daily News

Western Mass. EDC, Springfield WORKS Announce Phase Two of Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield WORKS, a community-wide initiative with the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) announced in May they had received a $400,000 Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant that will help facilitate systemic socioeconomic changes in the city of Springfield. The goal is to mitigate the negative impacts of incarceration.

Part of the process of implementing the program was administering surveys, collecting that data, and determining how the seven subgrantees will become better situated to aid in the necessary changes. The results from those surveys are in. “As we continue to examine the data collected, we want you to know that the information gathered from local community members is truly staggering,” Springfield WORKS announced. “It shows the work that needs to be done, and more importantly, it emphasizes the need to help the families of those who are justice-involved.”

The seven subgrantees include Children’s Study Home, Home City Development, HCS Head Start, Springfield School Volunteers, Square One, MassHire Springfield Career Center, and Holyoke Community College.

As the data is analyzed, more information will be provided in the weeks to come on the key takeaways and learnings. The purpose of this effort is to hear directly from the community about barriers and obstacles that are experienced due to the negative impacts of incarceration and identify effective, sustainable, and long-term solutions to support neighbors who are most at risk.

Close to three-quarters of Springfield residents identify as Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic, and other people of color. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by incarceration due to systemic inequalities rooted in policies and practices that affect the likelihood of being arrested, convicted, and incarcerated. The majority of racially diverse residents live in communities with historic patterns of segregation and disinvestment in Springfield, which have effectively blocked opportunities for many residents.

“Over half of the survey respondents were previously jailed or incarcerated, and more than 90% had at least one family member justice-involved,” said Anne Kandilis, director of Springfield WORKS. “They reported myriad financial, employment, housing, and mental-health challenges suffered. Our goal is to work together with families, connecting resources to support economic and family well-being.”

When someone is incarcerated, their family suffers, and they lose out on basic needs others take for granted. That’s where Springfield WORKS and the Western Massachusetts EDC, along with the seven subgrantees, will come together.

After the data is analyzed, Springfield WORKS will lead the design of an action plan in collaboration with the subgrantees and other partners to begin impacting real change to promote a holistic approach to working with families. The focus will be on increasing cross-sector collaboration to break down barriers to program engagement, financial stability, and quality jobs. Springfield has a long history of innovation, and solving old problems in new ways is critical to helping Western Mass. adapt to new circumstances and become economically resilient.