WATCH: Police take in homeless family after Salvation Army shelter turns them away
Unable to convince a Salvation Army shelter to take in a Tennessee family on a sub-freezing night because of the age of one of their children, responding police officers pooled their own money and provided the family with shelter and groceries, reports WMC.
Tim Lejeune, his wife and three children — a daughter, 16, and sons 15, and 5 — are homeless and currently living out of their car in Johnson City, parking overnight in Walmart parking lots. Facing a bitter cold night, with the temperature dropping to 18 degrees, Lejeune took his family to the Johnson City Salvation Army shelter after seeing the white flag flying indicating a cold night and shelter available.
Upon arriving at the shelter, the family was told they couldn’t stay because their son is fifteen, and current Salvation Army policy does not allow them to host boys between the ages of 12 to 16.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, your son, y’all can’t stay here, because of his age,'” Lejeune said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
“They said he’s too old to stay on the women’s side, because of the women running around in their pajamas and they said he’s too young to stay on the men’s side in case some pervert wants to do ….. whatever,” Lejeune added.
The family met with Johnson City police officers who tried to persuade the Salvation Army to take the family in, but to no avail.
Unwilling to let the family sleep in their car that night, the officers pooled their own money, as well as money donated by 911 dispatchers, and took the family to the Johnson Inn. According to authorities, the clerk at the motel, seeing what the policemen were doing, comped the room for the family for the night. The police officers then took the money and bought the family dinner, groceries, leaving them with the leftover cash.
Johnson City Police Maj. Garry Younger said, “I’m very proud that we employ people with that fortitude that care about the citizens.”
Police identified the officers as AD McElroy, Justin Jenkins, Toma Sparks and Robert McCurry.
Salvation Army Captain Michael Cox said the organization has a longtime policy that prohibits boys ages 12 to 16 from staying at the shelter and says it has only been enforced one before.
“It was an unfortunate situation altogether, because we did not have the facilities to put that family in place,” Cox said of the situation. “We did offer further assistance and that was denied.”
Cox said the Salvation Army is now reviewing the policy.
The Lejeune family did return to the homeless shelter at a later date and has stayed there, but not due to a change in policy. The 15-year-old son, Dustin is currently staying at a mental health facility after having a breakdown, feeling he was responsible for the family’s plight.
The family is currently looking for schools for the children, work, and home where they can be reunited with their son.
Watch the video below from WMC: