Support workers who comfort victims of crime are in short supply in Fort McMurray after the 2016 wildfire.
On Thursday, the municipality put out a call for volunteers to help bolster its victim services ranks. The municipality typically has a team of about 50 to 60 volunteers but those numbers have recently dwindled to 17.
Since the wildfire, the Wood Buffalo Victim Services unit has been receiving more calls. In 2016, the team received 764 calls. In 2017, it responded to 889.
Victim services volunteers offer support to RCMP members when they deliver news about the death of a loved one, as well as assist victims of violence or offer comfort after traumatic situations like fires or car crashes.
The wildfire has taken a financial and social toll on the Fort McMurray community. The municipality, law enforcement and social services all braced themselves for increased demand in the aftermath.
“Obviously after the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history there sometimes could be that compassion fatigue,” Adam Hardiman, a municipal spokesperson said.
“So this is a reach out to the community to bolster some of those volunteer numbers.”
Crime victims need support
Even without the complications of the wildfire, victim services said it would already be stretched thin on volunteers.
“It means people are taking more shifts,” Deanne Bergey, manager of the Wood Buffalo RCMP support services said. “We always want to get out and support a victim of crime.”
New recruits don’t require prior experience but do undergo training in person and online before they are sent out on calls. They must commit to three 12-hour shifts each month and attend monthly meetings that support the 24-hour operation.
The municipality is appealing for volunteers to visit rmwb.ca/victimservices or contact 780-788-4250.