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Austin wants to add more money to a program that helps crime victims. Here's what it does.

"Please do not cross" yellow tape while Investigators work at the scene
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Austin is trying to expand the budget for a fund that helps victims of crimes.

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Austin is expanding the resources it offers to crime victims.

The Austin Police Department, which runs a victims fund, has a $30,000 budget to help people with immediate needs like a new pair of glasses or pre-paid cellphone. The money also covers things like travel expenses to get a person to a safe place. Last year, the unit served around 182 clients — not including children of survivors.

But with a limited pool of money, a cap is set of about $500 per person per year. And the needs are often greater than what is available for $500.

Earlier this month, the Austin City Council approved a resolution that calls for more money to be added to the budget. How much and where that money will come from is not yet known. City staff will be looking into potential sources, including grants, over the next several weeks.

The hope is to increase the cap to cover more needs like rent and utility bills.

“What we are not doing now — that we are not able to do that would be tremendously helpful — is pay a month’s rent if we need to,” Kachina Clark, who helps manage the program, said. “Or pay utility bills if we need to for a month.”

She said the additional money could also be helpful in covering hotel rooms.

“We just can’t do those things right now because it would deplete the funds so quickly,” Clark said.

Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who led the effort to increase the budget, said she wants to see more resources covered under the program, including money to install window locks.

“It could mean a world of difference to someone who is in that situation, especially for them to feel safe,” she said.

Investing in crime victims

The program to help victims financially began a few years ago. In the aftermath of the 2020 social justice protests, the city took a closer look at police spending. APD then diverted $15,000 to a fund for emergency needs, like clothing.

Clark said this pool of money serves all victims of crimes — from drunk driving accidents to robberies to domestic assaults — and is meant to provide immediate relief.
It pays for a stock of food, water and grocery gift cards that crisis counselors can offer victims on the scene.

Clark said the money has been used to buy some more unusual items, too, like styling tools.

“There was a woman who was assaulted and the person who assaulted her destroyed the things she needs to do her job — she’s a hairdresser,” she said. “So, we used the funds to buy her those tools so she could get back to work.”

'An important step'

Jeannie Tomanetz, the lead crisis counselor for the program, said these expenses seem small, but the need is not expected and some people just don’t have the money to cover them.

“No one knows if they are going to be a victim of a crime; it can happen to anyone,” Tomanetz said. “If we can step in, it's that immediate need — getting someone to a safe place or buying something they don't have expenses to do — those are some of the most important things with this.”

Council Member Alison Alter, who helped initiate the fund, said she supported the effort to add more support for victims.

“Getting into a safe place is a really important step in getting victims into a place where they can heal and move on from their trauma,” Alter said said.

Staff is expected to come back next month with recommendations for more funding sources.

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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