Kelli Nelson.

The Human Services Committee was told Monday night that Evanston’s two victim services workers responded to well over a thousand calls last year and a third person is scheduled to be added to the team later this year to help with the workload.

Kelli Nelson, one of the victim services advocates in the Health and Human Services Department, said she and Ariel Jackson are on call 24-hours a day to respond to crime scenes.

But she said they spend most of their time on court advocacy — often attending court hearings in lieu of victims, filling out orders of protection and assisting in writing victim impact statements.

Jackson listed more than 30 types of incidents they are asked to respond to. The largest categories are domestic disturbance or domestic battery cases.

Jackson said the advocates don’t do long-term counseling, because their schedules aren’t predictable enough to allow for booking appointments.

“The last couple of years have been trying for everyone,” Jackson said, “but the types of callouts that we’re getting have caused us to really look at how we can serve in a stronger capacity and give more concentrated support to callers.”

“We’ve had to pull back on some other things,” Jackson added. “We used to respond to every single report where there was a victim listed. Now, because of the volume, we have to look more closely at who most needs help.”

Jackson said that the program, which dates to the 1970s in Evanston, at one point had four employees, but over time declined to have just two.

Nelson noted the city’s six homicides last year. “When dealing with something that serious, the type of follow up needed is very intense, especially in the first few days and weeks afterwards” involving a lot of calls to family members and witnesses.

Asked by Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) whether the department had enough funds to run the victim services program, Health Director Ike Ogbo said that with funding for the third position added “we have put in an allocation that I think will be adequate for the entire year.”

“But we just don’t know what’s going to happen and what unforeseeable circumstances we might face at the middle or end of the year,” he added

Ogbo said the department conducted a series of interviews recently to fill the third position but “just didn’t find the right fit.” But he said the search is continuing to find someone to fill that position.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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