New York, NY—Common Justice, a Vera Institute of Justice demonstration project, today announced that three Los Angeles-based groups—the Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches (LAM), Life After Uncivil Ruthless Acts (L.A.U.R.A.), and The Reverence Project—were awarded new federal victim services funding to increase their capacity to reach underserved African American and Latino survivors of crime. The application for funding was submitted with the support of a collaborative effort by Common Justice, Equal Justice USA (EJUSA), and Californians for Safety and Justice, who have partnered to direct newly increased federal victim services funding to groups working with underserved victims.
The federal budget for fiscal year 2015 included a more than three-fold increase in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for victim services, from $745 million to $2.361 billion. This unprecedented increase presented a significant but challenging opportunity to close the wide gap in victim services faced by those most impacted by violence—including young men of color, as documented in Vera’s 2014 report on the issue. Federal data on victimization collected in an 11-year period showed that young black men were the most likely demographic to be robbed every year, however, 92 percent of all victims of robbery receive no known assistance after the crime.
To ensure that this increased funding is leveraged to maximize support for this highly impacted yet most underserved population, Common Justice is working to identify groups on the ground that are providing or positioned to provide comprehensive, culturally-informed victim services, including those that are not traditional victim service providers, such as faith-based organizations. As many of these providers as possible are then connected to EJUSA, who is offering capacity building, technical assistance, and training to groups to help them strengthen their infrastructure and programs and be best positioned to receive and manage these new funds. Finally, Californians for Safety and Justice is conducting advocacy in states to elevate the issue and the voices of crime survivors. With the support of the collaborative effort, LAM, L.A.U.R.A., and The Reverence Project submitted a joint application for VOCA funding, and were awarded $175,000 in May.
After identifying the need for a collaborative effort to apply for the VOCA funds, The Revererence Project worked to bring together LAM and L.A.U.R.A. as partners to meet the urgent needs of underserved crime survivors. LAM—the lead agency in the joint application—provides faith-based victim services to African American, low-income survivors in South Central Los Angeles. Its collaborative victim service delivery model includes a range of partners who provide access to housing, employment, schooling, and social services. LAM works in partnership with L.A.U.R.A. to serve the Latino, African American, and immigrant populations in its community, and The Reverence Project supports the work of these two groups by conducting outreach to underserved crime survivors. The groups’ current work is greatly under-resourced, and the newly allocated funding will help them close that gap and to expand the range of people they serve.
“We are thrilled that the vital and important work that these organizations are doing to help victims of color heal from their trauma will be expanded,” said Danielle Sered, director of Common Justice. “The success of the collaborative’s application is an important reminder of what can be done to advance racial equity with the proper support. We look forward to ensuring that more groups receive that support in the years to come, and ultimately, to bring long overdue services to those victims who most need them.”
“This funding will allow L.A.U.R.A to provide our community with continued support that is culturally and language appropriate for our community,” said L.A.U.R.A. founder Adela Barajas.
Federal VOCA funding is distributed to states for administration, who were given 3 years to spend their fiscal year 2015 allocation because of the unexpected, substantial increase. Other grantees in this round of VOCA funding include another group Common Justice and EJUSA have supported—Homies Unidos, a Los-Angeles-based nonprofit gang violence prevention and intervention organization. In the months and years to come, Common Justice and EJUSA will continue working with the collaborative on other funding applications.
The VOCA collaborative builds on Common Justice’s national work to leverage the lessons from direct service to transform the justice system through partnerships and advocacy, most recently through the Healing Works Learning Collaborative and website. Common Justice’s direct service program operates the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts. Seventy percent of the victims served by their work are young men of color.