Homicide Victims' Families & Violent Crime Survivors Still Need Support
be there now for these families.”
TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2020During an unsettling time when just about everyone is being told, “Keep your distance,” two agencies, funded in part by COMBAT, are still extending a helping hand to crime victims—virtually and metaphorically, if not physically.
The images on their websites reflect how the AdHoc Group Against Crime and KC Mothers In Charge normally offer comfort: arms wrapped around shoulders… holding hands… hugs…
“I’m used to being right there for people and for my community,” said Rosilyn Temple. “I miss giving my hugs and getting hugs.”
‘What We Would Do—Normally’
Temple founded the Kansas City chapter of Mothers In Charge seven years ago. She has since been “there” on the scene at every Kansas City, Missouri, homicide or, if out of town, arranged for someone from the organization to arrive as police secured the area. The Kansas City Police Department notifies Mothers In Charge immediately when there is a homicide discovered. Temple and her fellow Mothers provide on-the-scene trauma-informed crisis intervention and begin offering support for the victim’s surviving family members. (They often speak from their own personal experiences, having lost loved ones to violence themselves.)
“That is what we would do,” said Temple, adding with emphasis, “normally.”
Since Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas issued a stay-at-home order March 21, Temple has “done the responsible thing” and stayed away from KC’s most recent homicide scenes. Unfortunately, there have been several: eight in 11 days (March 29-April 8).
“It breaks my heart that I can’t be there now for these families,” Temple lamented.
“We want to reach out to people—be there for them. Our life-blood is connecting to people.”
No Substitute For ‘Personal’ Service
The KCPD continues to contact Mothers In Charge after each homicide. Temple now calls the victim’s next of kin to offer her agency’s help. “But this is so personal,” she stressed. “There’s no substitute for really being there physically for a person who has had someone they loved stolen from them.”
AdHoc President Damon Daniel agrees.
“As a people-oriented organization, this pandemic is certainly challenging us,” Daniel said. “We want to reach out to people—be there for them. Our life-blood is connecting to people.”
But like Temple, Daniel knows physically connecting with crime victims right now to provide counseling and other support services just isn’t possible. He and Temple both have their staffs working remotely.
AdHoc staff and volunteers routinely canvass neighborhoods, going door-to-door, engaging with people face-to-face—normally. In an effort to continue reaching out to the community, AdHoc held a virtual town hall April 10, the focus being on “The Epidemic of Violence.”
The images on the Mothers In Charge and AdHoc websites reflect how the two organizations would usually offer comfort.
30-Minute Counseling Sessions Available
Mothers In Charge’s support for surviving family members can last years, through monthly support groups, teaching coping skills and hosting events. “We’re calling 400 families at least once a week right now,” Temple said, “letting them hear our voices, letting them know we are there for them, telling them we love them.”
Concerned about the isolation and anxiety the pandemic is causing, Mothers In Charge is also offering 30-minute phone counseling sessions with their licensed therapist to anyone in the community. (Those wanting a 30-minute session can call 816-912-2601 for more information.)
No ‘In-Home’ Counseling
AdHoc is providing ongoing counseling and as many other services as possible online and via the phone. Although Daniel has suspended “in-home counseling sessions,” many of AdHoc’s clients prefer in-person meetings with AdHoc’s contracted therapists, who have their own offices.
“Right now, that decision to still see clients in their offices, I’m letting our therapists make on a case-by-case basis,” Daniel said, “but there’s no counseling being done in clients’ homes.”
Care For Crime Survivors Goes On
However, Care For Crime Survivors, a program AdHoc operates in partnership with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, is still providing services that include crime scene clean-up and minor home repairs following violent assaults. The Prosecutor’s Office refers the crime survivors to AdHoc, who then coordinates with contractors to do the work.
“We have those clients sending us photos that we can then pass along to the contractors,” Daniel said. “Those contractors, taking the necessary precautions, can still get any necessary immediate repairs done.”
What has become more difficult to do right now, he explained, is relocating survivors who may need to move out of their homes. “Under these circumstances that’s extremely tough.”
Compounding Temple’s heartbreak is that she can only “talk through, rather than literally walk through” a family trying to arrange funeral services for a murdered loved one. In a joint news release issued March 31, Temple and Serenity Funeral Home Director Michael Adkins pointed out the impact the public health crisis is having on all bereaved families:
KC Mothers in Charge and Serenity Funeral Home have been working closely together since 2014 to serve families victimized by homicide. Until the KCMO State-of-Emergency is lifted, Serenity Funeral Home can only offer direct cremation and direct burial services. At this time, families cannot even view the body of their loved one. Families who wish to have a funeral service and burial must choose to embalm their loved one and wait until the State-of-Emergency is lifted. The length of the waiting period is unknown causing more grief and pain to families already suffering unimaginable loss.
“We still have people killing each other,” Temple said. “A lot of nights you can still hear shots being fired in the neighborhood. What we need is some stillness and to stop hurting each other.
“Even with all this social distancing, we ought to be coming together during this crisis.”