Philly DA’s office group that offers compassion to victims’ families seeks some for itself

Myra Maxwell speaks at a podium with a sign stating the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in front of her.

File photo: Myra Maxwell (right) is the Director of the Philadelphia CARES Unit in the District Attorneys Office. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The group that helps people cope with tragedy in Philadelphia is seeking some compassion from the people they serve.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office is the first in the nation offering comprehensive advocacy and support services to survivors of homicide through their CARES unit.

CARES stands for Crisis Assistance, Response and Engagement for Survivors and has consolidated efforts to help those affected by homicides which had previously been done by numerous volunteer organizations. CARES team leader Melony Nelson says  the group has been dedicated to the effort full-time.

The group provided support to over 450 families in 2020 and 216 as of June of last year, according to the DA’s website.

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Nelson said their response teams are working around the clock because of the city’s violence situation.

“We are boots on the ground. We’re working every day. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” she said. “We are deployed to crime scenes. We do home visits. We are deployed to the hospitals. And we are offering free services to all of those affected by a homicide.”

Nelson said they’re asking for some compassion in return..

“I’m asking you to, please, when you see us in your neighborhood, know we are there because we care,” she said. “Know we’re there because we love you, but we also need love.”

She said her boss, executive director of the Victim Support Services Division Rev. Myra Maxwell, had a death in her family, but was still working at 6 a.m., because “that’s when homicides occur.”

“We have things that take place in our lives, we have circumstances that are unforeseen. I just want you to know that we love you. And we would like for you to love on us,” Nelson said.

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If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.

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