MIDLOTHIAN – When Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith and Asst. Police Chief Scott Brown first mentioned The Heights to me, but I could not completely wrap my head around it.
A family resource center for victims of family abuse, and it is just that. But after I took a tour with Smith, Brown, and The Heights Executive Director Jennifer Salzman, I more easily understood just what a valuable resource the place is offering.
Salzman met us at The Heights in Midlothian off Ellis County’s Highway 287, and I was shown a first-hand look at the building blocks that will make up The Heights when construction is complete within the next few months.
Technically a justice center, Salzman explained, “The term justice center is not well received by victims. It seems that it is not as fair as they want it to sound, so many of these facilities are not called justice centers; for example, the location in Fort Worth is a justice center. It is just not called that.”
In the state of Texas, there are now six family justice centers and two in development, all to help the victims of family violence.
Overall, there are justice centers around the world, like the one being built in Midlothian, and most are located in the United States. The first one began in California, and then George W. Bush made this type of facility one of his initiatives, and that is how Texas got its first family justice center in San Antonio.
And now The Heights.
The Heights can be considered a multi-agency center. For example, there will even be a mock courtroom on the campus to help victims understand what will happen when they are in court. Midlothian Police will have an office there to work with victims; there will also be showers, doctors, counseling to help victims of abuse get back on their feet, and even daycare for the children of families dealing with abuse.
Uniting Agencies To Serve Victims of Family Abuse
Before the Heights existed, I was told victims often had to go to as many as 30 different places to get the help they needed. The Heights campus was built to orchestrate a way to unite all the agencies together to serve the victims of family abuse in one place.
One standout I noticed is the boutique on site for women who utilize the facility, helping them find appropriate clothes needed for court or job interviews, for example.
“This is a boutique where they can earn dollars to come spend,” Salzman said. “We want them not just to feel like it is open so they can get what they want; they earn the dollars by attending classes, following the process, coming to support groups and sessions, and more since we are still fleshing out all the details. We want them coming back and digging into doing the work.”
Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith, who is a big supporter of The Heights, said, “Unfortunately, domestic violence touches nearly every family in our community. We have within our circle of influence or know of someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. The Heights is a grassroots effort to provide services to the victims of this cycle of violence. Their commitment to providing services to Ellis County victims of Domestic Violence as well as breaking the cycle of violence comes at a time in our County’s growth that will make a measurable difference.”
Overall, The Heights Board’s effort is to offer the necessary resources a victim of domestic violence will need to escape the cycle of violence.
“After 36 years of law enforcement, I can tell you that this effort is beyond extraordinary,” Smith said. “I met Executive Director Jennifer Salzman in 2018 when she was exploring the idea of providing services to victims of family violence. Little did I know that she would not only share a vision but bring the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to bring it to life.”
Smith, who has been a part of the Board of The Heights, concluded, “There is a personal commitment from each board member as well as the overwhelming support from Ellis County Commissioners Court, our Ellis Count Judge, and Municipal Governments throughout Ellis County. Our Ellis County Sheriff and local Municipal Police Chiefs have also pledged our support and intent to work with the Heights to provide our Communities with the absolute best resource to protect and support victims of domestic violence. The opportunity to be a part of and support the Heights is a true privilege and highlight of my career.”