MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Empowering Native American women who’ve been through trauma. It’s the goal behind a new partnership between a women’s shelter and law enforcement agencies in Ramsey County.

A troubling police call months ago turned into an opportunity for more women to find help.

It was this past fall when two Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a home filled with dirty clothes, pet feces and food.

Mike Martin is Undersheriff of the Regional Services Division at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.

“The two women involved in this case where living in deplorable conditions,” Martin said.

Two older women were living inside while a relative spent their social security checks.

“This was a situation that was very dire and the deputies really wanted to make a difference,” he said.

It’s when the department learned of Women of Nations and its Eagle’s Nest Shelter — a 44-bed emergency shelter in St. Paul. It’s the only off-reservation shelter in the state to provide specific services focused on the Native American culture.

Tynielle Ziegler is its Cultural Director and Stephen Barry is Director of Outreach and Cultural Youth Development.

“Having this relationship between the sheriff’s department and the population we serve is huge,” Ziegler said.

From that call months ago, the partnership between law enforcement and the shelter has only grown. Now, free weekly classes lead by first responders now focus on self-defense, the court process and child protection.

A fundraiser by the SWAT Team collected kids’ costumes and winter wear for the domestic violence and sexual assault victims at the shelter.

“To have that relationship, to see the positive side there is some bad experiences there with police so it’s a blessing to have them there,” Barry said.

“Those things can really help empower the women to feel that they’re more in control of their lives,” Martin added.

Statistics show four in five Native women experience violence in their lifetimes and too often police say they can only provide a temporary fix. It’s why they’re hopeful this partnership that ultimately lead two women to a safer place to live months ago will do the same for many others.

“It’s very satisfying to know that you’ve actually helped someone through a situation like this,” Martin added.

The shelter will host its annual fundraiser in May. To find out how you can help through volunteering or donations click here.

Liz Collin

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