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Faith-Based Organizations and Services

Millions of Americans call upon clergy and religious leaders for spiritual guidance, support, and information in times of personal crisis.1 One study found that people responding to the death of someone close to them were almost five times more likely to seek the aid of a clergy person than all other mental health sources combined.2

Although the faith community historically has provided prison ministry programs, few religious institutions have developed programs specifically to serve crime victims and their families, and few victim assistance programs funded under the Victims of Crime Act are operated by religious organizations. However, faith communities recently have joined with victim service programs and made substantial progress in expanding this important source of support. OVC supports several collaborative projects between the faith and victim assistance communities designed to improve the response of faith-based practitioners to victims of crime. These initiatives also help communities create services through their faith-based organizations, network with secular victim service programs, and train providers and members of the faith community to meet victims' needs.

Good Samaritans

A partnership between the Mobile County District Attorney's Office,* police, local churches, community organizations, and volunteers, the Good Samaritans program responds to victims' emergency needs, makes referrals to service agencies, and offers victims emotional and spiritual support. The project developed a training curriculum on effective volunteering that covers ethics and confidentiality and provides an overview of the impact of crime on victims, as well as guidelines for responding to crises and self-care. In addition, the project trained volunteers and professionals and reached out to community members through public service announcements and a Web site. A pilot site in Mississippi also replicated the initiative. The national office of Volunteers of America and the National District Attorneys Association are partners in this effort.


Helping and Lending Outreach Support

Initiated in April 1997 by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Helping And Lending Outreach Support (HALOS) is a collaboration among the MUSC departments of pediatrics and psychiatry, the Exchange Club Center, College of Charleston Center for Learning, Lowcountry Children's Center, Charleston County Department of Social Services (DSS), and the faith, business, and civic communities. By supplementing caseworker budgets, the program provides services and support for child abuse victims above and beyond what DSS caseworkers typically can offer. In addition to partnering with HALOS by “adopting” a DSS caseworker, organizations, businesses, and community members can participate in the program by making donations, providing services or materials, helping with transportation, and recruiting teachers.

Some of the regular services provided by HALOS partners include summer camp opportunities, birthday salutes, back-to-school drives, and holiday giving programs. HALOS also assists vulnerable adults served by DSS. OVC is funding the program to evaluate its existing protocols and to expand and develop protocols and information for replication in five other communities. HALOS will also provide training and technical assistance to the five selected replication sites. For more information, visit the HALOS Web site.

U.S. Crisis Care Network

The U.S. Crisis Care Network offers training and technical assistance to organizations that are developing crisis care programs, and training and certification to organizations that already operate such programs. The network, administered by Community Chaplaincy, Inc., a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization, works with local law enforcement agencies to organize, train, and manage teams of civilian volunteers to provide immediate on-scene support to citizens who have been traumatized by a homicide, suicide, traffic collision, child death, or other tragedy.

Working with the U.S. Department of Justice, the network modified and expanded its curriculum to include guidance on responding to incidents of mass violence. Topics covered in the training curriculum include—

  • An overview of the grief process.
  • Confidentiality.
  • Appropriate responses to victims and survivors.
  • Death notification.
  • Working with children and adolescents.
  • Working with people with disabilities.
  • Working with diverse cultures.
  • Responding to large-scale incidents.
  • Secondary trauma.
  • Self-care for responders.

The revised curriculum has been adopted by some of the largest crisis care programs in the country. For more information, visit the U.S. Crisis Care Network Web site.

Video on the Faith Community's Response to Crime Victims

OVC has developed a video titled Faith-Based Responses to Crime Victims to address the need for collaboration between the victim services field and the faith community in serving victims of crime. The video highlights promising practices to inspire victim service providers and the faith community to reach out to one another to expand the victim service network. Collaboration between the two communities will ensure that crime victims can receive the full range of services and support to meet their psychological, financial, physical, and spiritual needs.

Communities Against Senior Exploitation Partnership

OVC is supporting a training project to help faith-based practitioners identify and intervene in cases of elder financial fraud and exploitation. The Denver District Attorney's Office, working with Denver's faith-based institutions, has developed the Communities Against Senior Exploitation (CASE) Partnership program, which provides community-based services related to elder financial fraud prevention, intervention, and reporting, and victim support. The partnership includes a train-the-trainer program and weekly financial crime prevention messages and urgent alerts. Specifically, the project trains staff and volunteers at faith institutions; these partners then educate the elderly about fraud in general and warn them about known fraudulent schemes. A grant award supports both continuation and expansion of the CASE Partnership program and its replication in other Colorado counties. The project targets many types of fraud and exploitation against elders and focuses particularly on underserved populations.

Helping Outreach Programs to Expand II

Faith-based and community-based organizations have a long history of helping victims. More often than not, victims seek the comfort, guidance, and assistance of faith- and community-based organizations because these organizations are trusted members of the community. To promote greater participation of faith- and community-based organizations in criminal justice programs that are supported by the Department of Justice, and to help develop and build the capacity of these organizations to respond to underserved victims in high-crime urban areas, OVC has allocated funds to the Helping Outreach Programs to Expand II (HOPE II) grant program.

Through a cooperative agreement with the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, Inc. (MCVRC), OVC solicited proposals from faith-based and community-based organizations serving underserved crime victims to establish subgrantee sites in urban, high-crime areas across the United States. In FYs 2005 and 2006, $5 million was made available for this initiative to fund each site with up to $50,000. Activities that will be supported include—
  • Recruiting and using volunteers to provide services to victims of crime (e.g., training victim advocates), and managing volunteers and nongovernmental support.

  • Providing services to victims (e.g., transportation to and from criminal justice proceedings and advocacy before the criminal justice system).

  • Promoting a coordinated public- and private-sector effort to aid victims within the community served (e.g., program literature, newsletters, and victim outreach efforts).

  • Assisting victims in obtaining victim compensation benefits through state or local government agencies.

MCVRC will help subgrantees develop a network linking faith- and community-based organizations to victim assistance communities. Critical gaps in services will be addressed, and existing resources and collaborations strengthened to improve communities' response to victims. For more information, contact MCVRC at 301-952-1406 or by e-mail at mail@mdcrimevictims.org.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will conduct a 2-year evaluation of the HOPE II program to independently assess the extent to which the HOPE II program goals and objectives are being achieved. For more information, see the NIJ solicitation.

Helping Outreach Programs to Expand I

OVC directly supports grassroots victim service efforts. The Helping Outreach Programs to Expand (HOPE) grant program provides grassroots community-based victim organizations and coalitions with up to $10,000 to network, develop programs, recruit volunteers, and deliver services. Faith-based victim service programs are eligible to apply for these grants and may use the funds to—

  • Develop and disseminate brochures, newsletters, and other victim-related materials to the community.
  • Provide financial support for advocates and volunteers to attend victim-related training conferences.
  • Support a 24-hour crisis counseling hotline.

Examples of innovative uses of HOPE funding include production of public service announcements featuring the service organization's contact information to be displayed in local movie theaters and support of National Crime Victims' Rights Week activities.


OVC recognizes the vital importance of enlisting the faith community to serve both the spiritual and material needs of victims of crime. Consistent with the mission of the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, OVC continues to reach out to faith-based organizations and groups to encourage their participation in OVC programs. This partnership is intended to provide better, more complete services for crime victims.

1. H.P. Chalfant, P.L. Heller, A. Roberts, D. Briones, S. Aguirre-Hochbaum, and W. Farr, 1990, “The Clergy as a Resource for Those Encountering Psychological Distress,” Review of Religious Research 31(3): 305–313.
2. J. Verhoff, R.A. Kulka, and E. Douvan, 1981, Mental Health in America, New York: Basic Books.

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