Equality Michigan is halfway through a short term grant designed to provide additional resources to its Victim Services Department. The $60,000 grant from Open Society Foundations is part of the Communities Against Hate initiative. The Rapid Response Grant covers the period of May-September 2017.
“The Report, Respond and Rebuild Detroit (3-R Detroit Initiative) will provide ground level effective community education geared towards responding to hate crimes appropriately; dedicated rapid financial assistance for legal services and representation to greatly increase the successful resolution of the crime; and emergency financial assistance geared towards intersectional victim re-stabilization from the hate crime suffered,” said Serena Johnson, EQMI’s director of victim services.
Johnson said the grant was a natural for EQMI as it was in line with the work they already do. “The work is the same,” she said. “The EQMI Department of Victim Services has been dedicated to working to combat hate crimes and to educate the community for many years. The grant has provided additional resource, which has allowed our advocates to increase their client caseloads as well as increased the emergency financial resources we are able to provide to individuals who have suffered from a hate incident throughout these past few months.”
In addition to being able to provide greater financial resources to hate crime victims, the grant also allows for community meetings to increase awareness of hate crimes.
“3-R Detroit will provide deep community conversations and small group meetings to engage people more fully,” said Johnson. “We will create an atmosphere of openness that works to remove perceived stigma and shame of LGBT hate crime victimization. By increasing education, awareness and empowerment, we will increase reporting of hate crimes.”
Johnson, herself, designed the educational component of the grant.
It has included activities, brochures, group sessions and one-on-one meetings for clients in regards to gaining the knowledge of what a hate crime is, how they would report the crime, safety planning and prevention. To date, EQMI has held four such community meetings, with two taking place in Grand Rapids and two in Detroit.
“We have learned that the community is aware of the term ‘hate crime’ but in general have had no idea how to report, respond or heal past many of the horrible incidents that have happened,” Johnson said. “This short-term rapid response grant has provided tremendous help to many within the LGBTQ community. But it has also shed light on how grants and increased funding is needed far beyond a five-month period. So our work continues.”