HOUSTON --He's a man you hope you will never need, but if tragedy strikes your family, Andy Kahan is the person most victims turn to. Kahan runs the city's crime victim's assistance office. He may be the only city official of his kind in the country, and he's outlasted three mayors. This could be just another holiday party until you look closer. There's the permanent pain on many faces here and the prominent pictures of lives lost. This party is for Parents of Murdered Children -- a club no one chooses to join. However, when you're struggling with the worst thing that can happen, this man can make all the difference. "Andy's help has kept me sane for 11 years," said Carolyn Hardin. Another mother, Carrie Ruiz, said, "He's always been there for victims, always been there for us when we needed him. You can call him any time, day or night." The City's Victim's Assistance Office is small, with a staff of one. Before his current job, Kahan spent eight years as a parole officer. "And I saw stuff that actually made me so sick and so disheartened," said Kahan. He fought back his frustrations, until 13 Undercover Investigative Reporter Wayne Dolcefino looked into the number of violent felons being put back on the streets because of prison overcrowding. "Then Wayne did a piece, a whole week-long series called Parolee's Paradise and I was actually part of that. And I like to say that I let loose, and then they let me loose," said Kahan. He started meeting with victim's groups. They asked then Mayor Bob Lanier, who'd won election by promising to fight crime, to give them an advocate. When Kahan met with the mayor's chief of staff, he was told not to bring the problems to the table. "Bring me the damn solutions. From then on, that's how I molded what I would do. It's very rare in life that you get to craft something from the ground floor," said Kahan. Those solutions include legislation making it harder for violent criminals to get early release, allowing victims' families to address their loved one's killer in court, and to witness their executions. "I have no business ever being in Houston, Texas," Kahan said. Kahan's difficult duties have not dampened his sense of humor. Whether he's talking about moving to Houston at 19, knowing no one and getting a job as a singing telegram. "I drove around Houston for three years in a chicken suit, a gorilla suit, a hula, I had a grass skirt with coconuts. I was a sight to see," said Kahan. Or his love for movies. He's collected hundreds of original posters and a few small roles. If you don't blink, you can catch a glimpse of him in 'Robocop 2.' "I've actually been fortunate to appear in several mostly nameless movies that were filmed here," said Kahan. He says he's already doing the role he was born to do. "It's been an honor and a blessing to be able to do what I do, and to help people under the worst possible scenarios and to make things better," he said. Kahan says he has not yet heard from the mayoral candidates as to whether they will keep his office, but he says the results speak for themselves and his mission is not limited to just Houston.
November 20, 2009 5:31:31 PM PST