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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 7, 2007VOL. 45, NO. 9Oakland, CA

Catholic Charities to help families cope
with grief over young murder victims

A young woman walks past crosses in front of St. Columba Church, representing those murdered last year in Oakland. So far this year, 30 crosses have been erected.

In a new initiative to support the grieving families of young murder victims in Oakland, Catholic Charities of the East Bay is forming crisis-response teams that will be on the scene within an hour of the police call.

The agency has received $300,000 of Oakland’s Measure Y funds to operate the program, which begins May 12. Each team will have 2-3 members. They will provide emotional support to the family during the first hours after the tragedy and continue to assist with numerous practical tasks for up to six months.

Millie Burns, CCEB’s deputy director of programs, said a team’s tasks are likely to range from helping with funeral arrangements to counseling the victim’s relatives and friends. Funds have been set aside for such incidentals as appropriate clothes for the memorial service or flying a sibling home from college.
The team will also link survivors to other social services agencies.

“Our goal is to offer compassionate survivor support,” she said.

Burns said San Francisco has a similar crisis-team model for victims of sexual assault, but this is the first time an organized response team for homicides has been developed locally.

She believes that such support is essential, not only for the healing of grief but also to help survivors turn their anger into positive actions that help themselves and the community. She cited parents who lost a child to murder and now organize violence prevention programs or are peer counselors to other grieving parents.

Burns said she is particularly concerned about Oakland teens “who have seen so much death among their peers. They have lost their sense of security and hope.”

The crisis team members are volunteers with experience in social work and grief counseling who are comfortable moving into crisis and trauma situations, said Burns. They will receive 16 hours of training in crime scene protocols and crisis intervention.


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