Getting Through the Storm

Faith community nurse serves families of homicide victims

by Lizy Heard

Alverta Smith and Rev. Ronald Fraction

At the corner of Lambdin and St. Louis Avenue in the Ville district sits Mt. Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Ronald Fraction, a former police officer and currently a chaplain for the St. Louis City Police Department and St. Louis Retired Police Officers. He and faith community nurse Alverta Smith partner in caring for the greater St. Louis community through the Homicide, Ministers & Community Alliance (HMCA). HMCA was formed in 2009 as an alliance between the St. Louis Homicide Division and local congregations and community groups. Their goal is to rebuild and strengthen the relationship between the community and the police department by serving as a liaison between grieving families and the Homicide Division.

Alverta, along with dozens of HMCA volunteers, serves as on-call minister to the victim’s family immediately after the homicide. Within 48 hours, HMCA ministers are connected to victim’s family by investigators. Many stay in contact for up to one year. The HMCA volunteer’s first contact with the victim’s family typically begins with a phone call: “How can I help you?” Sometimes they assist with needs as simple as a phone call to the children’s school or providing rides to the funeral. Their duties often include grief counseling, guidance on funeral expenses, and if requested, presiding over the funeral.

Alverta, sometimes called “Happy Alverta” because of her joyful demeanor, says that the key is listening to the families and communities. She sees her role as “about getting people through the storm.” Whether she does this by encouraging no-retaliation from the families or providing spaces for the community to grieve. Each year Pastor Fraction’s church organizes a homicide vigil for the community to remember the victims from the previous year. “God has ambassadors, and he allows us to come together and do this job.”

Tagged under:

Share on: