By Kellen Taniguchi
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The Redcliff Victim Service Unit is a non-profit program that receives referrals from RCMP to support victims of crime either at the scene or throughout the court process, says the program’s manager Amy Hollingsworth.
The program serves Cypress County and the County of Forty Mile, including the communities of Redcliff, Bow Island and other small communities in the two areas.
Hollingsworth says the program has a 24-hour on-call service so officers can call if they need support from the program’s volunteer advocates at the scene.
“When the officers go out, say it’s on scene and say it’s a sudden death, they have their role to do which is often times investigating what’s going on,” said Hollingsworth. “So, we can go in and we can provide that initial support to the people and just be the empathetic, compassionate person to be with that person so they don’t have to be alone when they’re going through trauma.”
The program currently has six advocates and Hollingsworth says more volunteers are needed. She adds a lot of people can only help on weekends, so they’re especially looking for people who can help out during daytime hours during the week.
“We rely on those advocates to do our call-outs when we’re attending on scene, but we also rely on those advocates to help with daytime support in the courts,” she said. “That can be giving court updates, as something progresses throughout the court system, we’re providing that victim with information about what’s happening on that file as it progresses through and also the outcomes when it’s finished through court.”
Hollingsworth says they provide court orientations, preparation for court, they support people through the justice system if they’re having to attend court and they can be their support people throughout the process. She adds they help victims with impact statements, with restitution and submitting restitution, as well as providing counselling to fill the gap until they are off the wait list for another counsellor.
She says they are looking for volunteers in both Cypress County and the County of Forty Mile and they also provide lots of training before volunteers start their role as an advocate.
“Our advocates have to go through a security clearance through the RCMP and they do go through lots of rigorous training to make sure we are providing advocates that are well trained and well prepared to go into these roles as supportive people,” said Hollingsworth. ” … We’re just looking for a lot of community support to continue to be able to provide that support to the community when people are going through some pretty tough times.”
The Redcliff Victim Service Unit can be reached at 403-548-7848.
“When community members volunteer to help each other, especially through the difficult times, it allows the unit to continue to be accessible and visible in the community,” Hollingsworth says. “It is community members who are the experts at understanding the needs and supports that are needed within small towns and surrounding areas, so it is vital that we are able to continue to maintain volunteers so the unit stays community driven.”