By Doreen L’Allier
Community Resource Worker
Sandy had been on the run from her abuser for years, including a period of homelessness when she lived in a tent with her three children. Mary also became homeless after experiencing domestic violence. Both women found safe haven and support at 360 Communities Lewis House and discovered a pathway to a new life, free of abuse.
As is often the case with survivors of domestic abuse, initially Sandy was unable and unwilling to ask for help because she was too proud and accustomed to taking care of everything on her own. She and her children were also running from a very dangerous abuser, their husband and father. Mary and her two young children suffered violence in their home, struggled with the English language, had no legal status as new immigrants, and were ineligible for many benefits that are an economic necessity in order to live violence free.
While at the shelter, Sandy, Mary, and their children learned about safety planning, attended support groups, received legal advocacy with police departments and courts, attended family law clinics, and received help accessing community resources.
In 2014, 360 Communities Violence Prevention and Intervention Services began offering outreach support to targeted families who are living in Dakota County after staying at Lewis House. These families were subjected to domestic and/or sexual violence and are now on a path of healing and safety. In my new role as a Community Resource Worker, I provide home-based support that focuses on the family as a whole. Visiting families in their homes offers a different level of post-shelter engagement. I am able to continue to build on the trusting relationships with survivors that were developed at Lewis House. At the same time, in person I am better able to assess current living situations and ask the questions that help me understand if families are receiving the resources they need to continue toward independence and success.
To date, I have worked with twelve families in this new way of ending violence, breaking isolation, and connecting families to a wide array of community resources. Another seven families are waiting for new apartments and for their services to begin. The services are voluntary and can last 75 days or more, depending on their needs.
Sandy recently moved from Lewis House into her new apartment. In the same apartment complex, I also visited Mary who left Lewis House more than six months ago. These families, with continued outreach support, are both thriving and living in safe places today. They have worked through significant barriers to success. Sandy is busy getting their apartment furnished and decorated, while her three children are all enrolled in school and are participating in baseball and swimming. Sandy is initiating a divorce process and looking for a weekend food service job. Her abuser is in jail in another county.
Mary is sending off her two young preschoolers on the school bus and has a car. She also has one hour to herself three days per week while the kids are in school to work on her language homework. Her next steps will be continuing her English classes, getting a volunteer job, and then finding a retail job as soon as her youngest is in school full-time.
While there are still challenges for these two families, the Community Resource Worker position is making a difference by connecting people to resources and supporting them where they are: in the middle of the night through our telephone crisis line, in shelter, or in their new home. This work is another way we can break the isolation that is a part of domestic and sexual violence. It is lifesaving work that leads to sustainable success.
For more information on how to get involved with 360 Communities visit us online at 360Communities.org. To support 360 Communities Violence Prevention and Intervention work directly, please joining us for the 22nd Annual Lewis House Charity Golf Tournament on August 24th at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in Lakeville, MN.
Consider supporting this work. When we partner together to support our families, we make our communities stronger and safer.