A New Resource for Victims of Gun Violence
By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate
A new resource for families of victims of gun violence was recently launched by 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow, Pamela Montgomery-Bosely. Her organization, Purpose Over Pain, recently launched a 24-hour crisis response hotline for people coping with the loss of a loved one from violence. The hotline is active from 7pm on Friday to 7pm on Sunday and can be reached by dialing 872-3CRISIS or (872) 327-4747.
Since its inception in 2007, Purpose Over Pain has expanded from a small non-profit run by parents of victims of gun violence to an organization with full-time staff that work Monday through Friday. The organization provides positive development activities for children and youth, advocates for and promotes safer communities, and strengthens families by providing crisis support to parents or guardians whose children have been victims of gun violence. Most of Purpose Over Pain’s services are provided on weekdays, which up until now has left a gap in the services provided to families of victims of gun violence over the weekend.
The crisis response hotline is intended to serve families at any point during the weekend, which is when gun violence tends to peak. Prior to opening the hotline, Purpose Over Pain would receive messages and calls throughout the weekend from people needing support after friends or family members had become victims of gun violence. Pam explains:
“Over the weekend, people struggle, because that’s when the violence is extremely high. So, while we are available Monday through Friday, I wanted to be available on the weekends, but not my full time staff since they are survivors too.”
Purpose Over Pain hired four operators to work the gun violence prevention hotline over the weekend, so that Purpose Over Pain’s existing staff would not be overburdened.
All of the operators have first hand experience with gun violence, having lost either children or relatives, and are trained to listen to and provide guidance to people dealing with a tragic loss. Pam describes the role of the responders:
We want to be there to support people and let them know that they’re not alone. Our staff is there to listen. Many parents have their children shot and killed in the middle of the night and might receive a call at 2 in the morning with the news. You can’t sleep after news like that, so we wanted to make sure that there is someone there to listen to them, to provide support, to provide guidance, and to provide resources.
Pam also works on the hotline covering for the other responders in case they are unavailable or if it is the anniversary date of their loved one being murdered.
Resources that the operators can link victims include support circles, counseling, financial resources, and job programs. Purpose Over Pain offers memorial services, support days, and mentoring sessions as part of its regular programming. Hotline operators can also link victims to outside resources. For instance, hotline operators often help victims fill out a Crime Victim Compensation Form. This form is part of the Illinois Attorney General’s Crime Victims Compensation Program which is intended to reduce the financial burden imposed on victims of violent crime and their families by providing up to $45,000 for expenses incurred by eligible victims as a result of a violent crime. Purpose Over Pain also has a full resource book that can link victims to programs that provide housing, food, clothes, and jobs. They network with other organizations, such as St. Sabina’s, so that they can connect victims with resources close to them and that are relevant to their needs.
Purpose Over Pain’s hotline is the first of its kind in Chicago, previously there was no 24-hour crisis hotline for the friends and families of victims of gun violence. Now, victims can be supported by community members that have lived through similar experiences. Pam emphasizes, “When you call and they pick up the phone you’ll have a survivor, someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s not like you’re getting an automated message, you’re getting a live voice. I don’t want people to think they’re alone because they’re not, we’re here for them.” The Purpose Over Pain hotline has been created by community members for community members and will continue to provide pertinent and needed care to victims of gun violence.