San Francisco State UniversityA-ZSearchCalendarNeed help?News

SF State News
SF State News Home
SFSU in the News
Events Calendar
Gator Sports News

Expert commentary
Expert Commentary 1
Expert Commentary 2
Expert Commentary 3

For Journalists
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Public Affairs Staff

For Faculty
Submit a News Item
Be an Expert Source
Working with the  Media

SFSU Publications
SFSU Magazine

Public Affairs

SFSU project supports relatives of murder victims

April 11, 2005

Photo of CLAER staff members Eva Sheppard, Sharen Hewitt, Sonja Sawyer and Traina ScottWith a shoe-string budget, a helping hand and an emphasis on education, an SFSU project called Community Leadership Academy Emergency Response (CLAER) is helping San Francisco residents who have had relatives and friends become victims of street violence.

Based in the University's San Francisco Urban Institute, CLAER provides direct services and other assistance for these "secondary victims," who are often overlooked in a city with a large homicide rate. San Francisco has had 24 homicides so far this year, following 88 in 2004.

Thanks to CLEAR, secondary victims receive money for bills and Christmas gifts, help with relocation to safer neighborhoods, referrals to counseling and employment services, and more.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, Sunnydale resident Tomiko Spruell says she is in touch with CLAER every day. CLAER case workers make sure that her family is doing OK, her bills are being paid on time, and such. She says this has made a major difference in her life following the 2001 slaying of her brother and last year’s murder of her 4-year-old daughter's father. Her daughter even received an Easter basket and cards this year from CLAER.

"CLAER does stuff they don't have to do," Spruell says. "And they make us feel like someone cares about us when nobody else does."

A staff of four women from the Visitacion Valley and Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods handles a case load of 87 families and nearly 300 individuals. As part of their job with CLAER, they must become engaged with their community by working on advocacy and policy issues and take college classes, including an SFSU course titled The Politics of Advocacy and Political Development, taught by CLAER Project Director Sharen Hewitt and health education Lecturer Roma Guy. CLAER staff members are in frequent contact with the mayor's office and city supervisors to help work on anti-violence legislation and ensure that the issues of the city’s most marginalized communities are addressed. The program also sponsors lectures on topics like local politics for residents of the Visitacion Valley community.

Hewitt, a long-time community organizer, is fearless about fighting to end neighborhood violence. She does not hesitate to confront gang members and others on the city's most dangerous street corners. She sees education as a key to ending the cycle of violence and poverty.

"I am determined to challenge the community's prevailing values of despair and hopelessness," she says in her office, located blocks away from the dilapidated, violence-prone Sunnydale housing projects.

CLAER, founded in 2002, is funded by grants totaling $130,000 from San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth and Families, Department of Human Services and Mayor's Office of Community Development.

For further details, call (415) 333-3017.

-- Matt Itelson


San Francisco State University

Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified April 11, 2005 by University Communications