When someone who is experiencing domestic abuse finally decides to literally get out of the situation, they often leave everything behind. They also find themselves without a place to stay.
That is where Mandy Heibel of the WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) is able to offer some assistance. Heibel serves as the housing program coordinator for WRAP on a regional level. Her office is located at the Second Street site in Redwood Falls.
Having served in that role for more than a year, Heibel understands the plight of people who are escaping, and she does her best to find them a space place.
No, Heibel admitted, that is not always an easy task.
“Housing is a huge issue for us,” said Heibel, adding there are many factors that go into finding that place.
At times it is not just one person who is in need of help, as there are often children who are also part of the equation and at times there may even be pets. Heibel said those pets can play a vital role in providing a sense of security for someone who has been abused, and in those cases when they may have to give up that pet it can trigger even worse issues for the victim.
Another challenge as it relates to children is that those who have fled want to remain in the community, as those kids are still in school. Heibel said in small rural communities that can be a huge challenge simply because safety and security becomes more challenging.
Although finding that right place does pose challenges, Heibel said she is committed in every single circumstance to find that place of safety for the victim, no matter what it takes. She added WRAP does have access to its own safe places, and there are locations in the region that will take people on an interim basis until something more ideal can be found.
“Housing is one of the most difficult parts of what we do,” said Brittany Miller, who serves as a victim advocate for WRAP out of the Redwood Falls office. “These people are in crisis, and they are often lucky to come out with a bag.”
When a housing solution is found, another challenge Heibel faces is helping them secure funding to pay the rent.
For WRAP, there are organizations that have been a huge asset when it comes to helping with that funding.
Yet, in the end, those who face long-term housing need a job to pay the rent.
Heibel, a Franklin native, said she enjoys the opportunity provided to her to help victims.
“We are here to stand side by side with them,” said Heibel, adding the goal is to help victims find ways to help themselves.
Heibel said over the time she has been with WRAP she has helped move a lot of furniture and is excited to know that she is assisting victims start a new life.
“The day we help someone move into a safe and comfortable place is the best feeling in the world,” said Heibel.
When someone walks into a WRAP office looking for help, Heibel immediately begins looking for short- and long-term housing options, simply because she knows finding something can be very hard.
At times, she added, there are strict rules that limit certain locations, and finding that perfect fit can and often does take some time.
The WRAP program is funded by a variety of sources, such as the Office of Justice Programs and the United Way, as well as through donations from businesses, agencies, organizations and individuals.
All of that helps, said Heibel.
“I love doing what I do,” said Heibel. “There is something new for me every day.”
Yes, she said, the people who come to see her are facing a crisis, but when those people who come see that there is someone like her on their side and that they are safe Heibel knows that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing with her life.
To learn more about WRAP and what it offers for victims, visit its Web site at www.letswrap.com.