Roca, a Nonprofit Anti-Violence Program, Coming to Baltimore with Help from Private Donors

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Mayor Pugh and dozens of stakeholders gather for a press conference. Photo via Mayor Catherine Pugh/Twitter.

A Massachusetts-based anti-violence program that works with the toughest-to-reach of young men will be opening an office in Baltimore in 2018, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced today.

Standing behind a podium crammed with dozens of reps from city government, philanthropic organizations, businesses and other institutions, Pugh announced that Roca (Spanish for “rock”) is coming to town. The budget for the program is $17 million, with around $10 million already secured from private foundations and businesses, Pugh said.

She declined to give many specifics, but Johns Hopkins University, BGE, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the Abell Foundation are among the donors named during the press conference. The Weinberg Foundation said via Twitter that it’s giving $1 million over three years. The Greater Baltimore Committee acted as a “bridge” for funding by convening the mayor and local executives and philanthropists, GBC president Donald Fry said.

Pugh said she’s asked the state to fund the remainder, but officials either haven’t been able or willing — she didn’t specify — to provide the money.

“This program depends a lot on state cooperation,” she said.

Molly Baldwin, Roca’s founder and a Baltimore native, said the program will begin by working with around 75 males ages 17 to 24, and eventually work its way up to 300 clients. The effort will entail opening up an office in Baltimore with its own executive director and staff. Baldwin said she would also be here for half of the year.

Roca has achieved success in Massachusetts, according to research from Harvard University’s Kennedy School: Around 84 percent of participants return to the program each year, 93 percent who have been arrested before aren’t rearrested after two years, and 88 percent comply with their probation conditions. Additionally, nearly nine in 10 participants who stick with the program for longer than 21 months manage to retain a job for six months or more.

Roca, Baldwin said, is geared toward the hardest-to-reach of young men. It serves around 1,000 of them per year, using “relentless outreach” to help them right their path.

“Someone walks into Roca ready to participate, we send them out the door to another program. But run from us and tell us to go to hell, you are in,” she said.

Asked how the program would differ from other active anti-violence efforts, such as the Baltimore City Health Department’s Safe Streets program, Baldwin described it as a “long-term behavior change program” rather than a neighborhood-level one.

“We believe that the approach to violence reduction is holistic,” added Pugh. “It’s not just about policing and putting people in jail or any of those things.”

Baldwin said she foresees Roca starting work in Baltimore as soon as July 2018.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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