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San Jose VTA Shooting: How to Help Victims, Families and Those Personally Affected

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HERO Tent President Kiana Simmons places a candle at a vigil organized by her group at San Jose City Hall on May 26, 2021, following a mass shooting at the Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard that left 10 people dead. (Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

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A day after a mass shooting left 10 people dead in San Jose, officials said the focus now needs to be on how to support those personally touched by the tragedy.

On NPR's Morning Edition, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the community is feeling "numb."

"We've got families who have lost loved ones, and co-workers who have lost friends," said Liccardo. "And I think our task now is to do everything we can to support them, and to help them begin the path of healing."

If you're personally seeking support after this event, or looking for ways to support people who've been directly impacted, read on for links to use and share. We'll continue to update these resources as we find them.

How to Find Support for Yourself or Others

Family Assistance Center

The Victim Services Unit for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has set up a Family Assistance Center (FAC), which is ready to assist victims, family members, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employees and anyone else who has been impacted.

The FAC is open Thursday at the American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter at 2731 N. 1st St. in San Jose from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (408) 209-8356.

The San Jose district attorney has confirmed that there are Spanish speakers onsite, and a language line is available.

Services available include:

Kasey Halcon, director of Victim Services, said there are crisis counselors, licensed clinicians, peer counselors and victim advocates at the FAC site.

"The idea being that we want to co-locate collaborative resources in one center for victims and their families," said Halcon.

Representatives from the California Victim Compensation Program are also on-hand to provide support. Halcon said family members can typically tap into the program for assistance with funeral and burial costs.

The services are free and those seeking help will not be asked for their immigration status.

Other Support Services Available

Community members looking for emotional support can contact the Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 1-855-278-4204 or Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services at 1-800-704-0900.

Support is also available by texting RENEW to 741741. (Text services available in English only).

The FAC is available to those who were directly impacted by the incident — including those who witnessed the shooting or who fled. But Halcon said it is also available to the community at large. This may include members of the community who have been impacted by other acts of violence, including those who are still recovering from the 2019 mass shooting in Gilroy. Halcon said counselors were deployed to south Santa Clara County to help the first responders who worked during the Gilroy incident and were triggered by the VTA shooting.

"You can have a shooting, you can have it in the community.. [and] you can have thousands of people that are deeply impacted by the crime that occurred," said Halcon.

Halcon said the VTA shooting comes at an extremely challenging time — more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic. And mental health is an issue that communities are continuing to grapple with.

"Something like a mass victimization incident can trigger people on different levels that can make them feel unsafe, it can make them want to isolate," said Halcon. "Counseling is available. Mental health counseling is really important. And if you need help, you should ask for it. Everybody deserves to have a safe space to go to."

A VTA spokesperson said that the agency’s human resources department will also be reaching out to the families of all the victims to help them "navigate the multiple benefits and resources that they will need to cope with the days ahead."

At a press event Thursday, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez commended the county’s behavioral health department and the district attorney’s victim advocates group for providing families with crucial support in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and urged the community to access the help they're entitled to.

"I just want to say to everybody who’s listening, if you need help, reach out. There are so many ways to get services and we don’t want a single person to go without the services that they need," she said.

How to Support Victims and Others Who've Been Affected

Make a Donation

Donations in support of victims and their families can be made through Working Partnerships USA's Union Community Resources program, to their VTA Solidarity Fund.

Working Partnerships is a community public policy and organizing group based in the South Bay that works closely with the labor movement.

"We have a program that can provide both financial assistance, but also counseling and support," said Jeff Barrera, communications director for Working Partnerships USA. "During tragedies like this one, we can use that program to pretty quickly provide broader relief."

The Working Partnerships fund was created on behalf of the workers and their families. Barrera said it will provide whatever support and assistance is needed for families to get through this crisis.

Working Partnerships USA also offers a multilingual support line: (408) 809-2122.

Another fund is being set up by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents workers at VTA, including some of the victims. The group called on its members and others to donate through its Disaster Relief Fund.

There are currently fundraisers being shared online. But officials urge potential donors to vet the online fundraisers before giving money. GoFundMe has a list of vetted fundraisers posted on its website.

Community members can also donate to local nonprofits that provide support during mass shooting events. This includes the Bill Wilson Center, a critical incident response agency providing support to victims, witnesses and first responders.

Donating blood to the American Red Cross is also another way to help.

Attend a Vigil

A vigil will be held at the San Jose City Hall Plaza on Thursday at 6 p.m. to honor those whose lives were lost to the shooting.

Elected officials, local leaders and other community members are expected to attend.

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Matthew Green contributed to this post.

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