Charleston Victims Assistance Commission hopes to help heal and create change

Charleston Victims Assistance Commission hopes to help heal and create change
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 7:51 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Crime in Charleston has not gone unnoticed by old and new city residents.

“There are all kinds of violence around here, people fighting and carrying on,” said Neil Lambka, who moved to Charleton’s West Side during the summer.

“When I moved here, I had two sons. It was really nice for them to grow up,” said Marguret Jeffries, who has lived in Charleston her entire life.

“As time went along, it got a little more violent.”

With the crimes also come their victims and their loved ones. It is people like them who motivated Ward 6 Councilwoman Deanna McKinney to introduce a resolution to create the Charleston Victims Assistance Commission Program which was approved by the City Council in mid-September.

McKinney, who lost her own son to gun violence eight years ago, said she hopes the commission will provide services to families of victims like the one she needed in her time of grieving.

“You have all these shootings, you have a lot of overdoses, and you have the mental health,” she said. “It’s so many things that cause us to fall into despair or fall into a place of darkness to where we can’t get out sometimes and we need help.”

McKinney said there are a lot of opportunities with the commission.

“I’m hoping to start some support groups, as well, and you know, start uplifting our community a little bit more, being more supportive in case you need rent, food, utilities, or anything like that, keeping you from being an asset to society,” she said. “We want to make sure that we help you.”

The seven-member commission will be comprised of people appointed by the mayor including the Chief of Police, two City Council Members and four Charleston residents who have expressed interest in deterring violence. According to the resolution, one resident should have experience as a social worker or behavioral health specialist and another should be a spiritual leader.

McKinney said the makeup of the commission is intentional.

“A lot of times we just want to put things on one person and a lot of times we need different opinions,” she said. “Other times, people will sit down and say, hey, I feel this way, this will say, I felt that way. But we all come together collectively, and I believe that we’ll be able to effectively help our visitors, instead of being just one person.”

Residents hope the commission could cause city leaders to look at other factors that could cause violent crime.

“I say give people, like the homeless in homes and in shelters,” Lambka said. “Keep in mind to put them in shelters so more money is needed for the shelters.”

“I suggest they put a police substation here, police substation so they at least have the presence here in the neighborhood,” Jeffries said.

McKinney believes it is possible.

“Once we get the support groups, and we have people that can actually focus on that issue,” she said.

“Then we come together as a whole to talk about the issues that we have, it can be effective.”

Read the resolution here.