There’s a house on North Forest Road in Amherst that serves as a sign of hope for all those trapped in an abusive relationship and unsure where to turn.
The three-bedroom split-level at 330 N. Forest Road has been renovated into the Northtowns satellite office of the Family Justice Center of Erie County, a one-stop resource for victims of domestic violence.
It’s here that the victims and their children can meet with staff and volunteers who will walk them through the maze of available services needed to safely escape physical or emotional abuse.
“Nobody deserves to be in an abusive relationship,” said Mary Travers Murphy, executive director of the Family Justice Center. “We can offer hope, healing and a safe haven to anybody who walks through our door.”
A coalition of religious leaders deserves the credit for the new Northtowns location, whose story began about three years ago when the Family Justice Center opened a satellite at 4883 S. Buffalo St. in Orchard Park, thanks to the help of clergy from the Southtowns.
That prompted calls to Murphy: What about the Northtowns?
“Domestic abuse – whether it be physical or emotional – knows no boundaries,” said Betsy Greno, a member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Williamsville, who spearheaded the project. “This happens in every neighborhood.”
The ball started rolling with the Williamsville Clergy Association, whose leaders were dealing with the problem of domestic violence within their own congregations but didn’t know where to send the victims for help.
And while the Family Justice Center assists some 2,000 people a year at its headquarters on Main and Seneca streets, many from the suburbs can’t or won’t travel downtown.
So the coalition of clergy found a nice location on North Forest, which had been previously used as the residence for the pastor of the North Presbyterian Church next door.
The church agreed to lease it to the Family Justice Center for $1 a year.
“The need is there,” said the Rev. Bill Hennessy of North Presbyterian. “Domestic violence is often hidden and unfortunately doesn’t become an issue until something tragic happens.”
As many as 150 people lent their support to the effort.
Tens of thousands of dollars were raised to remodel the home under the eye of contractor Ryan Szymanek, one of the many volunteers.
The walls are painted in soft colors. The interior is fully refurnished. The bedrooms are now comfortable spaces for counseling.
“And the rest is history,” Murphy said. “Over seven months, we raised $100,000 in in-kind services, cash and grants.”
The office officially opens Monday. Hours of operation will be from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The phone number is 634-4309.
Visitors can park in the lot next door at the North Presbyterian Church and enter through the back of the house.
“It’s very discreet,” Greno said. “There’s no sign at the front of the building. There’s no stigma attached to it. That takes away from the hesitation of showing up.”