The Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches (LAM) is building a network of local churches and community groups to provide trauma-informed services to African-American, Latino, and immigrant crime survivors in South Los Angeles.
And now, for the first time, they are receiving federal VOCA funds – funds earmarked for victims services – in order to carry out their work. These funds are more than just a grant. They mark a possible turning point for crime survivors of color, who have long been underserved by the traditional victim services field.
“All too often communities of color have had to witness and endure first-hand the ills and fall-out of social programs that don’t work, public safety systems that don’t protect and serve and cycles of violence and abuse that seem to never end,” said Cheryl Branch, Executive Director of LAM.
There are lots of reasons that crime survivors of color face barriers to getting help. For one thing, people of color are more likely to be blamed for their own victimization, or their victimization is seen as routine and thus less worthy of care. Some don’t even view themselves as victims. At the same time, traditional victim services are not always culturally appropriate or available in the right neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, grassroots, public policy-focused, socio-cultural, community-based support networks like LAM have long played the role of connecting and healing for communities of color, where traditional services fall short. Yet these community groups may not realize that the work they’re doing “counts” as victim services or that they could get access to funds that would extend their reach. Community support groups, candlelight vigils, mothers of murdered children organizing to help one another, hip hop music therapy, and other kinds of community programs have gone underfunded or unfunded, leaving gaps in much-needed services for survivors and victims’ families to fully heal from trauma.
EJUSA has been thrilled to help close that gap, by working with groups like LAM to learn about VOCA funds and help them apply. This winter we worked with LAM to frame its activities and refine its goals to meet the victim services funding guidelines. We developed templates for budgets, partnership agreements, and helped LAM with its proposal.
“The technical assistance that EJUSA provided was instrumental in providing the tools, support, and expertise we needed to submit a successful VOCA application,” said Branch. “As forerunners to survivor services in faith communities, this grant will help us reimagine a better Los Angeles and offer hope, healing and support to survivors of crime.”
“LAM’s work is incredibly important,” said Latrina, EJUSA’s Grassroots Capacity Building Specialist. “They are one of the only organizations in South Los Angeles that is directly working with African American survivors of violence.”
“LAM is supporting faith-based communities and small churches to be a direct resource for survivors throughout the city,” Latrina continued. “As many African American survivors and victims’ families seek out the church after victimization, it was a really effective way to have impact. I’m excited for the work, and even more excited that we were able to help them get the funding they need to create healing in the community.”
We believe that culturally and socially relevant approaches to trauma are essential to transforming our justice system from one that harms to one that heals. This work is just getting started, and we hope many more groups will gain new funds to bring these important healing services to communities of color and other underserved communities.