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Vera House asks community for help amid crisis

Vera House

Vera House has a long history of helping victims and survivors of violence. However, now the organization is asking for help as it hits a crisis point during the pandemic.

Co-Executive Director Randi Bregman said this is the most overwhelming time she has faced in her 31 years with the organization.

"We have an incredible demand for service," said Bregman. "Many people seeking help, and the help they are seeking is often more intense. They're at more of a crisis point than we've ever seen before.”

Before the pandemic, Vera House’s advocates carried about 20-30 ongoing cases. In the pandemic era, they have about 60-70 ongoing cases at a time when the organization is struggling to fill open staff positions. Bregman said in the middle of the Great Resignation, it’s difficult for non-profit organizations to compete with salaries offered by for-profit companies.

“Our staff is really exhausted,” said Bregman. “Sometimes people burn out, and they can’t stay. Sometimes their heart is so deeply in the mission of Vera House that they’re staying, but they’re getting physically sick or they’re not emotionally well, and so we could really use additional assistance from the community on all these fronts.”

Bregman said Vera House needs volunteers to help with critical services like its 24 hour support line and responding to the hospital to help victims. She said volunteers go through extensive training and have mentors to guide them, and she encourages anyone who thinks they might be a good fit to reach out.

"The most important thing you will bring, no matter the role you have at Vera House, as a volunteer or a staff person, is to listen, to care, to show compassion, but not to direct people's life decisions," said Bregman.

The organization said financial donations or items from itswish list would also be a big help. Several of Vera House’s key grants have ended or been cut due to the pandemic.

However, despite the difficulties, Bregman has a message for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or abuse.

"We will be here for you,” said Bregman. “Our current struggles do not mean that we will not work tirelessly day and night to make sure we are responding to your needs."

And she hopes with help from the community, Vera House will continue to offer that support for years to come.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.