Victims -- who often become witnesses as well -- can face major disruption after a crime. Everything from housing to filling prescriptions can be thrown into chaos.

For many, help is available through the Kern County Probation Department's Victim/Witness Assistance Program.

The state-funded unit helps victims of rape, elder abuse, stalking, assault and other crimes as well as victims of gang-related violence.

Victims have one year from the date of a crime to apply for services.

A recently remodeled room on the sixth floor of the courthouse at Truxtun and Chester welcomes victims and family members when they apply for help or seek respite during a trial.

About 7,000 people received services during the 2005-06 fiscal year, said Probation Supervisor Lupe Perez, who coordinates the program. A half-dozen victim advocates and five volunteers power the program.

How to get help

* Kern County Probation Department Victim/Witness Assistance Program: 868-4535.

How to help the victim/witness program:

* The annual Fog Run held in January raises money for the program's emergency operations. Funds are later reimbursed by the state, but the local unit needs cash on hand to help victims with immediate needs.

* Apply to volunteer. You can pick up a "Volunteer in Probation Application" at the program office on the sixth floor of the courthouse, 1415 Truxtun Ave., at the southeast intersection with Chester. Applicants will go through a background check.