When Officer Birch made a traffic stop three years ago he met a surprise of great magnitude. Birch had made the stop to inform the passenger of a broken tail light, but he was shocked to discover a sobbing and emotional Julia Meyers. Meyers, mother of four, had just made the courageous leap to escape from her domestic abuser of eight years. When Officer Birch showed her compassion and understanding, she immediately divulged her story for the first time. Upon hearing this news, Officer Birch helped Julia and her family to find solace in their trying and difficult situation. She spent some time at a local domestic violence shelter until a room became available at Homeless Solutions, Inc. (HSI), thanks in large part to the selfless and caring nature of Morristown’s Officer Birch.
Julia had a chance to share her story at HSI’s Dream Builders’ Bash just before the COVID-19 outbreak. With a tremble in her voice she described when she first left her abuser, she felt that “at the time, no distance seemed far enough. I had absolutely no idea where I would go but trusted with everything in me that it would be better than where we were.” Julia went on to say that “because of Homeless Solutions we are safe, we are thriving, and we are going to be okay.” At the end of Julia’s speech, amidst the tears and applause, Homeless Solutions had prepared an unexpected surprise of their own. They brought Officer Birch to the event and surprised Julia by reuniting her with the man who helped change the trajectory of her life. Upon asking Birch how it felt to help Julia save her life, he humbly stated “I was just doing my job. I never thought when I made that stop it would change someone’s life forever.”
Stories like Julia’s are all too common at HSI. Last year, more than 75% of their shelter guests were survivors of domestic abuse. Julia’s story illustrates how frequently victims are too afraid of what might happen if they take the leap and try to provide a better life for their family. In fact, statistics indicate that 70% of domestic violence homicides occur after the victim has left their abuser. Thankfully, organizations like HSI are there to make a substantial impact. In just the past five years alone, 57 families have successfully completed their program.
During this time of crisis the shelter remains open and continues to operate 24/7 to help families like Julia’s. Normally, shelter guests are not permitted to stay in the shelter during the day. Folks are out working or looking for work, utilizing community resources. These community resources are no longer available. The shelter is struggling to maintain staffing as employees need to care for their kids or avoid getting sick themselves.
Currently they are quarantined with 60 people and doing what they can to keep their shelter guests and staff safe. Not surprisingly many volunteer groups who ordinarily purchase, cook and serve dinner each night are not in a position to do that right now. This has caused a much greater demand for food and essential supplies. Homeless Solutions is grateful for the outpouring of support they have received. They continue to rely on the support of the community. To learn more about how you can help visit their website homelesssolutions.org or contact LaceyAstrella@hsinj.org