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My Sister's House to remain operational in Nashville, Tarboro

My Sister's House will soon go back to having two offices, one in Nashville and one in Tarboro.

Emily Lemus, Executive Director for the organization, said the services offered by the Family Justice Center will be discontinued, effective September 30. With that change, My Sister's House will move staff out of the Rocky Mount offices, which housed the Family Justice Center.

But My Sister's House will still remain fully operational, Lemus said.

Lemus said unfortunately, the changes have created some misinformation that the entire My Sister's House organization was shutting down.

"As always with change comes miscommunication and misinformation," Lemus said. "My Sister's House has served the victims of domestic violence in the Twin Counties since 1981."

Lemus said the organization has added programs over the years, including a sexual assault program, a Latino outreach program and a pet program to allow shelter guests to bring their pets.

In 2016, Lemus said the organization was awarded grant funding that allowed it to serve as the implementing agency for a Family Justice Center.

The Family Justice Center was described as a "one stop shop" for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and elder abuse. The center was supposed to allow all services to be provided under one roof from numerous professionals, including law enforcement and social services to families in need.

"Family Justice Center's are a relatively new approach to serving victims of crime," Lemus said. "While the Family Justice Center brought wonderful services to the Twin Counties, it also came with a large price tag."

Lemus said over the past three years, My Sister's House was responsible for funding the $200,000 match required by the Family Justice Center.

"This grant was written and approved without the proper funding support or any reserve in the event of a delay," Lemus said. "After the grant was approved, the director at the time left the agency before the grant even began."

Lemus was hired as the Executive Director for the organization in February 2017. However, she added, a bulk of her work ended up being for the Family Justice Center and finding donations each month to meet the match requirement.

Eventually, Lemus said she wondered if Nash County needed the Family Justice Center.

"Family Justice Centers exist in larger cities across North Carolina," Lemus said. "Other Family Justice Centers in based Wake County (population over 1 million), based Guilford County (population over 500,000), and based Buncombe County (population over 250,000). Nash County does not quite clear 100,000 in population."

"The question became was an FJC really needed?," Lemus added. "Would the doubling of the budget be justified? Would more people ultimately be served?"

Lemus said on average the number of clients served has not increased with the opening of the Family Justice Center.

"Clients still had to visit the Nashville or Tarboro office to see a judge for an ex-parte order sometimes referred to as a protection order," Lemus said.

"Overall the Family Justice Center was well intended but did not have the funding or population size to justify or sustain it," she added.

Lemus said services of the Family Justice Center will end September 30.

"As we have been for decades My Sister's House will be here to support victims in crisis," Lemus said. "My Sister's House will still remain fully operational with offices in Nashville (210 W Church Street) and Tarboro (201 E Pitt Street).

"All the staff will be relocated to Nashville or Tarboro," Lemus added. "We're still going to do what we've always done."

"The agency is grateful for the continued support of the community as it transitions back to core services. If you are in need of services please call 252-459-3094, we are here to listen, believe, and help."

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