News 12 First at Five/ May 27, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga.--Georgia and South Carolina have some of the highest reports of domestic violence in the country. Last year, Safe Homes of Augusta helped more than 800 people stuck in violent relationships. Now, they've got a plan in place to reach even more victims. They're building a new shelter to replace their current one that will hold twice as many people.
The Salter family knows first hand how quickly domestic violence can change your life. "It hurts, and then when it ends like my situation, and then it's over, there's nothing else to do," John Salter says.
His daughter was strangled two years ago by her boyfriend. He's serving a life sentence while Tiffany Salter's family tries to pick up the pieces.
"Just knowing I won't see my sister again is tough, but I will always have her with me," Bonnie Salter says, as she points to a cross shaped locket. Bonnie wears her big sister's ashes in a necklace close to her heart. It's the only piece of Tiffany her family has left. It serves as a daily reminder of a life cut short by domestic violence.
"You don't have to live like that. You can get out, but you have to be strong enough to do it," Bonnie says.
A new shelter will help save other women like Tiffany Salter.
"We had to turn away over 329 people due to the lack of space," Aimee Hall, the Executive Director of Safe Homes of Augusta says, "That's why there's such a need for this new shelter."
The Richmond County Sheriff's Office gets hundreds of domestic violence reports every month. In 2013, deputies responded to 2,775 domestic violence calls. Safe Homes of Augusta has the only domestic violence shelter in the area where women can get help.
"I can't imagine how heartbreaking it would be to know, okay, I'm fixing to call. I've made the decision now to go, and I called the only shelter in a 10 county area, and they say sorry we're full," Hall says.
If women call and the shelter is full, Safe Homes makes alternate plans for them. They help find them a safe place to stay or get them a hotel, but many women feel more safe in the shelter.
The current shelter can only house 16 women and children at a time. The new facility will house 36, saving more lives and giving more families hope before it's too late.
John Salter says, "I just urge these women to please get some help before it comes to that."
Safe Homes has already purchased the land for the shelter, and they plan to break ground this August. They're hoping to have it open by next October.
The project is funded by community donations and grants. To learn more or help donate, go to http://www.buildsafehomes.org