COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) – Mass shooting advocates, survivors and their families asked for accountability Sunday in a press conference focused on the tragedy at Club Q.

Specifically, that group is calling out the Colorado Healing Fund.

CHF doesn’t give money directly to victims and their families, though this group has said that shouldn’t be the case.

According to these advocates and survivors, the donations given are used at the discretion of the nonprofit but some feel it should be at the discretion of the victims.

Karen Gomez, a victim of the Aurora theatre shooting, is among many who have spoken out saying “give them 100% of what was already collected and let them decide how best to use the funds themselves. Only they know what they need.”

CHF doesn’t give money directly to victims and their families. Instead, the nonprofit gives money to first-responding organizations like the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance or COVA.

“They think the donations are theirs to use at their discretion,” Amy Cooke, another Aurora theater shooting survivor said. “We experienced it in Aurora and it’s the same thing the Boulder families experienced.”

One answer in the frequently asked questions section of CHF’s website reads: “By providing payments through victim assistance the Colorado Healing Fund helps ensure donations are getting to the victims.”

They also set aside a portion for long-term recovery and administration fees, though we couldn’t get a specified amount. The organizer of this group, who has worked behind the scenes to help the victims in 11 other mass shootings said “administration fees and the cost that comes out should not come from victims’ donations. Those donations are meant for the victims. There are other means to raise funds for that administration cost.”

Those survivors, like Tiara Parker a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor, said this makes them feel victimized.

“Taking money from them is nothing but a slap in the face and has been nothing but a slap in the face,” Parker said.

They’re pushing for a centralized fund, where 100% will go directly to survivors, victims and their families.

“Money can’t replace a life lost; you can’t go buy a life. It’s not something you can go to the supermarket and get. But the money can help give the resources that all victims need when it’s all said and done.” Parker said. “It is one of the hardest things to get up and keep pushing, not knowing if you’ll have a job the next day because you’re too damn scared to go outside.”

There is a state fund designated for victims of Club Q that can be applied for as well.

Colorado Healing Fund’s statement

Former Columbine High School principal and Colorado Healing Fund board member Frank  DeAngelis responded to FOX31 on this matter saying some money has already been raised for “immediate needs” such as travel expenses and transportation.

They do not distribute the money directly to the families but instead work with COVA and leadership groups in the LGBTQ communities to get funds to them.

DeAngelis said that since the shooting $1.8 million in pledges have been made from corporations and foundations, including donations made to Colorado Gives.

Another statement, coming from Executive Director Jordan Finegan said:

We understand the concerns and questions that arise out of a tragedy and the need the community has for information. We are committed to continuing to provide information in a timely manner, while also fulfilling our core function of working with victim assistance teams to help support victims of this tragedy with their immediate needs. The Board of Trustees is planning to authorize the release of additional funds this week to cover more immediate needs of those impacted. Last week it authorized $245,000.00 in disbursement. Our primary focus during a response is the families, but we are also supporting the needs of the additional people and community that were immediately impacted by this tragedy. 

The Colorado Healing Fund is one of many organizations responding to this tragedy. We were created to fill gaps, and a large part of our work is identifying resources through other programs for victims, so we can stretch donations as far as possible and support as many people as possible in a meaningful way. We are working to coordinate so that every dollar raised can have the greatest impact for the people who have experienced this tragedy. 

Jordan Finegan, executive director of the Colorado Healing Fund

How the Colorado Healing Fund works

Background on the Colorado Healing Fund explains that the process following a tragedy is broken into three phases. Finegan sent FOX31 the following information about the nonprofit:

The Colorado Healing Fund (“CHF”) continues to implement its founding mission to establish a secure way for the public to contribute to victims of mass casualty crimes in Colorado. CHF assists local communities with the financial, emotional, and physical needs of victims, as well the long-term recovery of the community.

CHF disburses funds to victim service providers on the ground actively working with victims and community members assessing their needs. CHF does not give money directly to deceased victims’ families, survivors, or impacted parties at or near the scene. Instead, these individuals will receive financial assistance from the organizations assisting with their unmet needs. The nonprofit organization’s partners reflect Colorado agencies, organizations, and businesses committed to advocating on behalf of victims, and getting victims and communities the support needed after a mass tragedy. CHF collects an administrative fee to maintain its operations both during an event and to always be prepared for a response; its partners do not receive any additional fees for distributing CHF funds. CHF continues to seek funders interested in contributing to its vital, ongoing operations.

The CHF operates on a continuum of response and recovery following a mass tragedy. CHF divides the continuum into three phases: Acute, Intermediate, and Long-Term. Funds donated to CHF are intended for disbursement in each phase. The Acute Phase of response begins at the time of the incident; in the immediate aftermath, the focus is on the families of the deceased, those who are injured, and those immediately affected as designated by the local victim service agencies. CHF facilitates payment for air travel, rental vehicles, lodging for out-of-town relatives, and rent, for example. In the Club Q tragedy thus far, CHF has made $50,000 available for expenses of this type. CHF also has released (through the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance) an initial $195,000 to the surviving families who lost loved ones, and to injured individuals in the form of cash disbursement. Additional immediate distributions are expected through the period of funerals and memorial services.

A wide range of victims’ needs reveals themselves in the weeks and months after a mass tragedy. This Intermediate Phase continues for 12 months post-event. There is a collaboration among agencies, organizations, and individuals, including those in the affected communities, working to meet ongoing needs and foster healing. During this time, CHF purposefully acts to fill gaps in services and assistance that are not paid for by other sources.

The Long-Term Phase addresses the impacts of mass tragedy years after the traumatic event. Triggering events such as a criminal trial or a challenging personal event may surface cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral needs. CHF strives to ensure some funds are available for long-term response.

A more thorough description of the three phases can be found in CHF’s General Protocol for Response located under Reports on the CHF website.

The Colorado Healing Fund was created in 2018 by a group of community leaders and victim advocates. Members of its Board of Trustees and Advisory Council are experts in victim assistance and disaster mental health response to mass tragedy. Collectively, they have assisted in more than 50 mass tragedies across the country and have over 233 years of combined experience in response and recovery from mass tragedy incidents. They have built a plan based on experience gained from Colorado incidents and their work with representatives from other communities across the country that have experienced mass casualty events.