Lisa Jefferson, DO
Medical Director of JenCare
Senior Medical Center, Portsmouth
The women and children who turn to the H.E.R. Shelter for help have survived traumatic situations, including domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, human trafficking and/or homelessness.
Many arrive with only the clothes on their backs, but they need more than emergency housing and supplies to get back on their feet, says Dr. Lisa Jefferson, who has volunteered for the nonprofit for about six years. They also need to feel that their community cares about them.
“It’s important not to let people be invisible during times of trial in their lives,” Dr. Jefferson says. “It goes well beyond their physical needs. No one should feel alone, and H.E.R. is a force for supporting people in a very loving way.”
Dr. Jefferson, a physician with JenCare Senior Medical Center in Portsmouth, initially got involved with the H.E.R. Shelter as a local Girl Scout leader. She and her daughter, now 17, have participated in multiple service projects for the organization, which operates two shelters in Portsmouth and one in Chesapeake.
Girl Scout groups have painted and cleaned out rooms at the larger Portsmouth center and collected toiletries, clothing, books, food, toys and Christmas gifts for families. They also have met some of the residents.
“The girls see that it’s children with their moms – kids just like them,” Dr. Jefferson relates. “They get to hear people’s stories and hopefully gain an understanding of how fortunate they are and how important it is for them to give back.”
The H.E.R. Shelter, an advocacy and support group, was founded in 1983 and has 28 rooms across its three shelters, each with multiple beds. Residents also have access to shared bathrooms and kitchen and living room areas.
As of early January, the nonprofit had 56 women and children in residence. Its three shelters, two focused on domestic violence and one on homelessness, have served 468 clients in fiscal year 2021 and more than 360 to date in the current fiscal year.
Along with temporary lodging and food, services include a 24-hour hotline staffed by trained advocates; medical, legal and psychological counseling; parenting and support groups; help finding stable housing and employment; bus passes; and daycare and activities for kids.
H.E.R. leaders and volunteers emphasize a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to boost survivors’ self-esteem. They also work to raise awareness of abuse and how to build healthy relationships, with resources such as dating classes for teenagers, male mentorship programs and online tips for recognizing and recovering from sexual violence, trafficking and financial abuse.
Dr. Jefferson says that no matter how complex a client’s situation is, the nonprofit is ready to tackle it.
“Some factors are preventable, and others are not,” she notes. “Sometimes, bad things in life just happen. What we need to remember is that we’re all human, and we all have kinship by just being human.”
For more information, visit hershelter.com or call (757) 485-1445. The shelter’s emergency hotline number is (757) 485-3384.