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Tracy Frank, Published April 09 2013

Her Voice: MSUM student studies link between homelessness and domestic violence

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

MOORHEAD – Katie Kottenbrock took a bit of a roundabout path to becoming an advocate for the homeless.

The 27-year-old Fargo woman earned a degree in international relations and political science, then went back to school and is now a women’s and gender studies major at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

While finishing her degree, Kottenbrock is also interning with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.

A professor recommended the internship, and while Kottenbrock said at first she wasn’t sure how it would fit with her major, she quickly learned that it was a perfect match.

“It just made a lot of sense to bring my two degrees together and to work for a cause that I really care about,” Kottenbrock said.

She focuses on welfare programming and has also researched domestic violence and the correlation between intimate partner violence and the need for help from welfare programs.

“I found that homelessness and gender are so interconnected, and domestic violence is a huge aspect of those who are in unstable housing conditions,” she said. “Learning about how domestic violence affects women forever was

really interesting.”

Kottenbrock spoke about her research at MSUM’s Women’s and Gender Studies Colloquium Series in January. The event highlights MSUM faculty and student research that focuses on feminist, women’s, and gender issues. It also features community members and activists whose work is linked to women’s and gender issues and social change.

Kottenbrock said she felt overwhelmed but honored to be asked to speak at the event.

“Normally the people they ask are pretty important people,” she said. “I was pretty thrilled that they felt I was qualified to speak.”

She is currently working on the Homes for All campaign to urge the Minnesota Legislature to spend $50 million to support proven programs that stabilize families, prevent homelessness and create workforce housing.

Kottenbrock is sending out postcards encouraging voters to ask their legislators to support the funding. She also helped gather people to attend the March 7 Homeless Day on the Hill lobbying event.

While her internship is winding down, Kottenbrock said she hopes to continue working to advocate for the homeless.

“I’ve found it to be really engaging and seeing the effect that you can have in your local community is really encouraging,” she said.

Kottenbrock is also a volunteer at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead. She has helped out with the shelter’s food pantry and small projects, like creating a bulletin board with information on domestic violence and child abuse, for the women’s dormitory.

“It makes me feel really lucky that I was given a chance to have an education and to understand this, and that I’m not wasting my education or my opportunities that I’ve been given,” she said.

Kottenbrock is also assistant director of the Women’s Center on campus, co-leader of the campus’ feminist organization, and president of the MSUM Triota, the campus chapter of the Women’s Studies National Honor Society.

Kottenbrock is graduating this semester and said she is thinking about pursuing a doctorate to become a professor.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526