Violent crimes exact a tremendous physical and emotional toll on individuals, families and entire communities. Surviving family members of a homicide victim – parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents – face the additional trauma and stress of having to bury their loved one, often with insufficient financial resources.
The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and other organizations provide important emotional and practical support to families in the immediate aftermath of a homicide. Yet the fact remains that funds for burial are the biggest and most immediate hurdle a family must address. Through the Attorney General’s Victims Compensation Fund, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides up to $6,500 for funeral-related fees (funeral home and casket) but does not cover cemetery or burial expenses. The City of Boston provides no burial assistance to survivors of homicide victims.
Thus, families often need assistance with burial costs not covered by the state, including the cost of the cemetery plot, cemetery fees, certified copies of death certificates and headstone. The Peace Institute has established a Survivors Burial Assistance Fund and is leading a collaborative effort to ensure that financial resources are available to families of homicide victims when they need them most.
Who Will Benefit?
Those eligible to receive assistance from the fund include immediate relatives of a homicide victim in Boston who can show proof of insufficient financial resources for burial expenses and who are willing to use resources identified by the Peace Institute to reduce the cost of the funeral and burial.
The fund helps cover the costs of a cemetery plot, cemetery fees, opening and closing of the grave, foundation and headstone, runner’s fee and certified copies of the death certificate.
The fund is administered by the Peace Institute, with an advisory board of representatives from donor groups. Initial members of the advisory board represent community churches that have agreed to advocate and raise money for the fund. At the same time, we are:
- encouraging families, especially those in high-risk situations, to purchase death and burial insurance;
- working with funeral homes to develop funeral packages that do not exceed the state’s Victims Compensation Fund limit;
- encouraging insurance companies to develop affordable death benefit insurance policies;
- advocating for the removal of time limits on the state Victims Compensation Fund; and
- pursuing commitments from Boston City departments to help fund the Survivors Burial Assistance Fund in the short term; in the longer term, we will pursue legislation for city funding of cemetery costs for homicide victims.
Grieving Families Need Your Support
For over 20 years, the Peace Institute has worked with families of homicide victims. We have seen firsthand the devastating effects of violence on family members and on whole communities. We have also seen what a dramatic difference it can make when a community comes together to support victims of violence.
Honoring a Lost Loved One
If you are a survivor of a homicide victim, we hope you will consider an annual contribution to the Survivors Burial Assistance Fund in memory of your loved one. Any amount will help, but you might consider a contribution corresponding to your loved one’s age at the time of death or to the anniversary of the death.
Coming Together as a Faith Community
Faith communities may consider taking up a special offering once or twice a year, with the proceeds going to the Survivors Burial Assistance Fund. Meaningful dates include “Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month” (November 20th through December 20th) and “National Crime Victims’ Rights month in April. Your church might also consider making a donation from your “benevolence fund” or taking up a “love offering” once or twice a year.
Community Business Partners
As a business operating in our community, you may want to consider the good will to be derived from supporting the Survivors Burial Assistance Fund. By helping the families of victims of violent crimes, you will demonstrate that you are a committed and caring partner in your community.
Donations may be made to Survivors Assistance Burial Fund Account #2771762811 at Santander Bank or to the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (Survivors Burial Assistance Fund in the memo field), 1452 Dorchester Avenue, 3rd floor, Dorchester, MA 02122. Thank you for your help.