CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There will be a new division from the City of Charleston meant to help victims of violence and their families on the road to recovery.
On Monday, the Charleston City Council voted to approve a bill to create the Charleston Victims Assistance Program Commission.
City Councilwoman Deanna McKinney, D-Ward 6 who led the way to create the commission, told 580-WCHS that she wants the commission to focus on anything that is harmful to a person and causes everyday trauma.
McKinney lost her son eight years ago as a victim to gun violence and said that trauma impacted her then and now.
“It was very hard to get through. To not have any support from the same community that I felt allowed this to happen to my child and myself, that was more devastating,” she said.
According to McKinney, she said she has held many violence prevention events but had to pay out of pocket. She said it’s encouraging to see the city set to spend money on prevention and support because victims and families oftentimes cannot pay for bills, rent and other necessities after a tragedy.
The committee will create a fund to help victims of violence and their families and friends.
“We don’t have any support, we don’t have any resources, we don’t have the things that are needed to heal, move forward, regain our lives, and get back into society,” she said.
McKinney said it will also focus on violence prevention efforts in the form of support groups, outreach and educational pieces. The first support group meeting for the commission is scheduled to be at Health Right on the West Side.
She said she wants to further educate the youth of the city who have lost someone to violence or have been a victim themselves.
“A lot of these kids don’t have anywhere to go to express what they are feeling about their loss. They don’t have anybody to talk to, they only talk to each other. If they don’t have the right advice from each other then we are not helping the situation,” McKinney said.
The commission will consist of the chief of police, two members of city council and four residents of the city who have expressed interest and/or have been involved in violence prevention or providing support for victims of violence. McKinney said there will also be a resident that has experience in mental health and a resident who is a spiritual leader.
McKinney said it was important for the members of the commission to come from different backgrounds so they can all learn more about situations.
“It’s going to take all of us to work together in order to bring it down, stop it a little bit. We may not be able to completely stop it but the prevention and conversation can also bring down a lot of these issues,” the councilwoman said.
Citizens of Charleston interested in learning more about the Victims Assistance Program or how to volunteer, email McKinney at [email protected]