A little more help, beyond all words of solace, for Chicago’s victims of violent crime
Tucked into Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed city budget is $12.25 million to help devastated victims of crime in simple and practical ways.
Last month, 4-year-old Mychal Moultry Jr. was shot twice in the head and killed while sitting in an apartment in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The bullets flew in a window from the front yard.
Mychal and his mother, Angela Gregg, had been visiting from Alabama. She was devastated, of course, and likely will continue to be devastated for the rest of her life. Ask any parent.
Talking to reporters later, Ms. Gregg pleaded for the killer to turn himself in.
“Give us some type of peace. Don’t take that away from us, too. Don’t take our son and take our peace,” she said. “Give us something. You’ve taken everything.”
Gregg talked soon after, as well, with the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, who promised her the police would do all they could to bring the killer to justice. The mayor also expressed her sorrow, speaking as one mother to another.
As mayor, Lightfoot has had many such conversations with grieving mothers and fathers, and those quiet talks have no doubt taken their toll. Ask any mayor. They have also made Lightfoot particularly aware, as she will tell you, of the need to help the families in quick and practical ways to ease their burden.
With that in mind, Lightfoot has included in her proposed new city budget a $12.25 million fund, the first of its kind for Chicago, to pay for services for the victims of crimes, including funeral arrangements, counseling and the inevitable filling out of piles of paperwork.
“The list of victims in our city is so long and so deep, we have an obligation to make sure we are providing a space for them and we advocate for them, but also that we bring them the services that they need to heal,” Lightfoot recently told the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
In a proposed $16.7 billion budget, $12.25 million is not a great deal of money, but it would allow the city to expand on services currently provided by nonprofit groups and the state. In a small way, it could help build trust and relationships between the Chicago police and communities hardest hit by violence. The fund would include $10 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
At the moment, the city works with a network of 11 social service partners to help victims of crime.
In Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, for example, there’s Universal Family Connection, which offers family reunification and stabilization programs, domestic violence prevention and survivor services, such as counseling and employment programs. In Humboldt Park and Little Village, there are the New Life Centers of Chicagoland, which offer gang mediation and family support services to head off any possible further acts of violence. New Life offers one-on-one mentorship for young individuals and runs sports programs in safe spaces.
Another valuable resource for local victims of crime is the Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program, which is intended to reduce the new financial burdens. It provides eligible applicants with up to $27,000 in state aid for expenses that stem from a violent crime.
Chicago’s $12.25 million victim-assistant fund would be overseen by the Department of Public Health and focus on providing services in neighborhoods where crime is at its worst and, consequently, the need for family support is greatest. It is no small matter in a time of crisis, when the world feels upside down, to get a little practical help in planning a funeral or filling out a form for state aid.
When Lightfoot presented her proposed new budget two weeks ago, we described it as an admirable plan for people living through hard times. It would provide, on an experimental basis, $500 a month to 5,000 low-income families — a guaranteed minimum income. It would invest $202 million in services to reduce homelessness, $150 million for youth programming, $52 million for mental health services, and even funding to plant 75,000 trees to fight global warming.
Tucked into the budget, as well, is that $12.25 million for crime victim services. We trust the fund will make it into the city’s final, approved spending plan.
We owe it to grieving mothers such as Angela Gregg, who did nothing to deserve such sorrow. Her only mistake was to come up from Alabama with her little boy to visit friends.
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