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Minnesota call center helps domestic violence and sexual assault survivors

The Minnesota nonprofit Cornerstone marks 40 years of making a difference. One of its programs is designed to impact survivors of violence on 'day one.'

MINNEAPOLIS — The first step to safety and stability is one call or text away. 

That's the message from The Minnesota Day One Call Center, a program from the nonprofit Cornerstone. "We provide almost every service victims of violence may need," said Colleen Schmitt, director of programs.

Schmitt's been in this work for more than 30 years. She, along with a team of trained advocates, connects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and general crime to emergency safe housing and resources from over 90 agencies throughout Minnesota.

"They put in so much compassion when working with victims and survivors trying to understand where they're coming from," Schmitt said. 

The call center operates 24/7, 365 days a year. In some cases, the people who answer have been in the same situation as the caller. 

"They're giving back because of some of their own experiences that they've had, which makes them even a higher quality employee," said Meg Schnabel, Executive Director at Cornerstone. "Because they have the empathy in addition to the skill sets to really be an asset and partner with someone who's been victimized and harmed to move them and support them through healing."

The advocates go through 40 to 50 hours of training around domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking issues.

"There’s a lot of on-site mentoring that goes on in terms of sort of role modeling. How do you answer a chat, a text, or a call? So, it's extensive," Schnabel said.

Cornerstone's help goes beyond taking the first call. The nonprofit has a continuum of services including a 35-bed emergency shelter, a hotel/motel partnership, pet protection, transportation, translation, financial assistance and basic needs.

There is also a program encompassing affordable mental health therapy for adults and children, support groups and school-based violence prevention that teaches youth the skills to mitigate the violence in their lives. 

"We do have as young as 12-year-olds contacting us through chat or the phone lines," Schmitt said. "Children need that support, too."

Whatever is needed to get a survivor stabilized, Cornerstone and the Minnesota Day One Call Center is ready to help. All someone needs to do is reach out. 

"Everyone who's sitting there thinking about picking up the phone or call to recognize that it's not their fault. They didn't deserve it, and things can be different," Schnabel said.

Last year, Cornerstone's Day One Call Center responded to more than 33,000 calls, texts, and chat messages. You can reach the Minnesota Day One Crisis Line at 1 (866) 223-1111. The Text Line is (612) 399-9995. 

The nonprofit relies on grants, volunteers and donations to keep going. There is a lunch and fundraising event set for Oct. 27. If you'd like to participate, visit this link.

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