As a mother with three young children who had experienced domestic violence for several years, Natasha was profoundly grateful for the advocacy and support services she received from Alexandra House to help get her through challenging times.
In addition to their wide-ranging services to victims of domestic, and sexual and relationship abuse, a federal grant from the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), Alexandra House assisted Natasha find suitable housing and pay a portion of her rent.
Once her housing was secured, Natasha’s vital support services were transferred to Rise. Brenda Sorgdrager, a Rise mental health practitioner, offers the women served through this grant a wide range of help they may need to stay successfully housed.
Natasha is one of three people Brenda currently serves through this federal grant. Alexandra House contracted with Rise in March 2018 to provide the ongoing support.
“I knew it was going to be really difficult since my mother had died and I would need help navigating through the challenges,” Tasha remembered who also suffers from social anxiety and depression. “When I first met with Brenda, I was so relieved.”
Depending on the individual’s needs, Brenda offers assistance with budgeting, finding resources for food, clothing, and childcare, setting up health appointments, finding support groups, dealing with household chores and maintenance, as well as mental health symptoms management.
“Brenda has been a great advocate for me and helped me in so many ways,” said Natasha. “I can really talk to her and she understands what I am going through. I struggle with applications and paperwork and she really helps me with those. When I mentioned that I was out of some essentials, without me asking for assistance, Brenda picked them up and brought them to my house. I was so grateful.”
“Natasha is a giving person who really cares about the people in her life – her kids, her family, and her friends,” said Brenda. “I am happy to be able to help her any way I can.”
During the pandemic outbreak, the two women had to modify their visits and keep in touch with phone calls and emails instead.
Natasha has worked as a PCA (personal care assistant) for more than a dozen years, but after the birth of her third child a few months ago, she opted not to return to work until it was safe to do so.
“I just couldn’t take the chance of bringing the COVID-19 virus home to my children,” said Natasha. “I am all they have and if I end up sick, it would be terrible. Thanks to the Alexandra House they were able to help me to help cover the costs of rent for a few months during COVID-19. All thanks to Brenda reaching out to ask if there was any help on my behalf.”
Jeanne is also receiving support services from Rise through this grant. She had been receiving Rise’s ARMHS (Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services) from Brenda since August 2016, but transferred to the grant because of flexibility of services she could offer. Brenda works with Jeanne on managing her mental health symptoms, connecting with community resources, and living successfully with her young daughter in a new place.
After not having worked in about ten years due to her anxiety, Jeanne was excited when the instructors at the ECFE (Early Childhood and Family Education) courses she was taking recognized how good Jeanne was with children and asked her to assist three days a week with the Adventures in Parenting class.
“I really enjoyed that,” said Jeanne who hopes to go back in the fall when the courses resume following the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was a really good experience and helped me feel good about myself that I could help others.
“Through it all, Brenda has been a tremendous help to me,” Jeanne added. “I don’t have a good support system in my personal life. I can’t imagine how I would do this without Rise and Brenda’s support – it would be real struggle.”
“Jeanne is really doing well now,” Brenda noted. “She never thought she would work again and takes so much pride, rightly so, in her job. With this grant, she was able to sign a lease for subsidized housing and won’t have to worry about providing shelter for her and her daughter. Jeanne is a very insightful, kind woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. I think the sky’s the limit for her and her daughter.”
“The partnership between Alexandra House and Rise has proven to be an essential partnership,” said Housing and Supportive Services Director Jenny Green.
“Alexandra House specializes in working with victims of violence and Rise’s expertise lies in working with a person’s mental health. By providing a more holistic, trauma informed approach to services, the options are endless for what each person can learn and accomplish.”
With locations in Blaine and Anoka, all Alexandra House services are free-of-charge. It offers 24-hour emergency shelter offers services to victims of domestic, sexual, and relationship violence across the state of Minnesota, including legal advocacy, support groups, housing and supportive services, youth intervention and prevention services, elder abuse services, community education, and professional training.
This article appears in June 2020 Rise Reporter.