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StrongHearts Native Helpline Welcomes Three Tribal Advocacy Programs

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by StrongHearts Native Helpline

New Michigan Project Expands Access to Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

(SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., February 22, 2022) – StrongHearts Native Helpline welcomes Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI), Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Bay Mills Indian Community to the Michigan Enhancement Project.

In 2021, StrongHearts launched a pilot project in Michigan to expand its existing domestic and sexual violence advocacy services to support tribal programs and their contacts in that state. The project is a partnership with the Division of Victim Services at Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, which is also providing the funding.

A well-recognized issue throughout tribal domestic violence advocacy and shelter work is that many tribal programs are small with limited staff. Their advocates may need to carry pagers or cell phones at all times in order to respond to victims, resulting in overtime and additional stress. Sometimes, advocates are unable to respond and victims calling after hours are simply advised to call back during office hours, which can create a safety issue for them. This project will give Native American victim-survivors in Michigan access to culturally-appropriate advocacy 24/7 even if they call their local tribal program after regular operating hours.

photo of Shanaviah Canales

“The LRBOI Victim Services Program (VSP) is not funded to provide 24-hour hotline service; for years we have done our best to answer after-hours calls but there are times calls have been missed,” said Shanaviah Canales, Victim Services program manager. “This partnership benefits victim-survivors by providing culturally-honoring services after hours. This partnership will sustain the VSP, which provides a coordinated collaborative multidisciplinary response to victims of crime, their families and the community.”

By opting in, tribal programs will be able to set their after-hours answering service to prompt callers to press one to transfer directly to StrongHearts Native Helpline advocates. StrongHearts advocates will be aware that the call is coming from a tribal program in Michigan, but the call will be completely confidential and anonymous.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work together with enhancing the culturally-honoring advocacy services and to ensure all Native victim-survivors are provided life-saving tools and receive immediate support to ensure safety and can be free from living in a life of abuse,” said Canales.

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