The Umbrella Center in Charlotte to serve abuse victims by 2024

This will be the first Family Justice Center in Mecklenburg County.
The city of Charlotte will soon be home to its very own Family Justice Center, known as The Umbrella Center.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The city of Charlotte will soon be home to its very own Family Justice Center, known as The Umbrella Center.

Over the past two decades, roughly 120 family justice centers have opened across the world.

The centers provide wrap-around services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking.

In North Carolina, Guilford, Alamance and Buncombe Counties already have their own.

Charlotte City Council recently approved $5 million dollars for The Umbrella Center, which will open by the end of 2024 in east Charlotte.

The idea is to put public and private agencies, legal services, law enforcement and health care providers all under one roof.

This makes it easy for people to access the help they need before it’s too late.

“The first time I called 911 the police came and they were great and they gave me a pamphlet that had 62 different phone numbers on it,” Audra Toussiant, a domestic violence survivor, told WBTV.

Toussaint knows what it’s like to face the hurdles of the legal system in an effort to stay safe.

“On subsequent times when he violated my restraining order, [I was] having to do the same thing, going back to the magistrate, finding childcare, sitting in the courtroom, navigating my way around the courthouse,” she said.

She says having The Umbrella Center would have been a game changer.

The following organizations have signed on to operate within the center:

  • The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.
  • Atrium Health.
  • The City of Charlotte, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
  • The Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage.
  • Mecklenburg County, including the Community Support Services and Social Services departments.
  • The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
  • The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center.
  • The police departments of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.

“They’re less likely to go back to abuse, they’re more likely to find a pathway forward,” Casey Gwinn, President of Alliance for Hope International, said.

Gwinn has helped open family justice centers in 43 states and 25 countries since 2002, and is helping leaders with the plans for the center in Charlotte.

He’s working alongside partners like Laura Lawrence, the Chief Operating Officer for Safe Alliance.

Lawrence sees victims give up, but she hopes The Umbrella Center will help lift them up.

“We know the cycle of violence repeats itself, and we need to break that cycle so people can have full happy and healthy lives,” Lawrence said.

So far they’ve raised $23 million out of their goal of $35 million dollars for the center.

$10 million came from the county, $5 million came from the city, and the rest from private sector donations.