FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 31, 2020
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice and advocates discuss challenges faced by providers of emergency housing and other critical services, release survey to identify needs of vulnerable communities
AUSTIN, Texas – In a virtual town hall hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), survivors and advocates today shared with Texas leaders the need to continue to ensure survivors and those in vulnerable communities continue to receive needed services during the Coronavirus pandemic.
State Reps. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) and Joe Moody (D-El Paso), both long-time champions for survivors of violent crimes and common-sense criminal justice reforms, participated in the virtual event.
“Hospitals are seeing increases in child abuse and domestic violence cases, brought on, they believe, by increased stressors of the circumstances of COVID-19,” Tricia Forbes, violent crime survivor and CSSJ Regional Trainer, said during the hour-long event. “Trusted community service providers and Texans in need of assistance and physical safety must not be overlooked at this difficult and trying time. We ask you to support, and continue to advocate that the critical essential services that crime survivors go to for help remain priorities during the COVID-19 response considerations.”
“The reality is that long before COVID-19 appeared, vulnerable communities were already burdened with concentrated crime, trauma, high incarceration and, at the same time, limited shelter options, inadequate crisis support, and economic inequality,” added Moody, who also serves as Speaker Pro Tem in the Texas House of Representatives. “The outbreak and its economic fallout will significantly impact these hardships. I am committed to supporting key partnerships that serve and protect our most vulnerable citizens and the resources essential to doing so.”
Chairman Leach said, “State and local leaders across Texas are working every day to protect vulnerable communities during the Coronavirus pandemic. Together with faith-based, non-profit and community partners, we will continue working to ensure the needs of crime survivors are not overlooked during this difficult and trying time. I am so grateful to volunteers in Collin County and across the State for their tireless efforts to serve the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice also released a survey to gather information that highlights the needs of crime survivors and providers of essential services during the pandemic, encouraging people to complete and submit it. During the virtual town hall, survivors and advocates representing CSSJ and its local chapters raised other ideas for consideration by state and local leaders in the immediate and long-term future such as:
- Ensuring critical assistance services are deemed essential services such as domestic violence shelters, violence prevention, transitional living services, nonprofit and faith-based services and other critical supports that can help reduce exposure risks and get people to safety; sustain existing government contracts for these services to ensure that these resources can continue to exist.
- Expanded emergency shelter options for people without safety, including domestic violence victims and other survivors of violent crime.
- Accelerated application reviews and continued reductions of bureaucratic barriers for emergency housing or other crisis support, including public benefits (SNAP, TANF, WIC) that may be difficult to access during the Coronavirus pandemic—such as the Governor’s recent announcement automatically extending food stamps and Medicaid coverage for recipients whose benefits are up for renewal.
- Establish a Crisis Assistance Emergency Response Fund. This would ensure that essential survivor services have the resources necessary to safely provide support for crime survivors—and give providers the capacity to expand access as the number of people as the COVID-19 crisis grows, including allocating federal funds for this purpose.
- Ensure critical community services can transition to an online platform so that those in need are able to access virtual help. This could be achieved by encouraging public and private partnerships to meet technology needs for equipment. Working with the private sector to expand free or low-cost broadband and mobile phone and data services would help ensure Texans can access crisis assistance and safely shelter in place.
- Expand, Re-enforce or Establish crisis assistance navigator hotlines and tele-wellness checks to connect vulnerable people to care in lieu of in-person meetings for services so that survivors can continue to receive the support they need (i.e., counseling for suicide prevention or substance use) such as the COVID-19 related hotline launched today by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
About Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice:
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a network of 40,000 crime victims nationally and 5,000 in Texas, is a flagship project of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. Alliance for Safety and Justice partners with leaders and advocates to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education, and advocacy. For more information, visit: https://cssj.org
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