Domestic violence victim group fighting to survive


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  • Charles Kim photo A volunteer from Strengthen Our Sisters goes through food donations at a local shelter.




  • Charles Kim photos Strengthen Our Sisters Founder Sandra Ramos speaks with other volunteers at one of its shelters.






WEST MILFORD – An organization helping the survivors and victims of domestic violence is fighting to survive, and is hoping to get help to avoid losing its property.

The Strengthen Our Sisters organization was foreclosed on its properties four years ago and despite making timely payments to the holding company that took them over, is now looking at losing them permanently.

Organization founder Sandra Ramos, 77, said that the organization received a demand email from the Florida based company for the $450,000 the group owes on the properties in three locations.

“These people will have nowhere to go,” Ramos said, sitting in one of the shelters.

According to Ramos, the organization, which she started in the 1970s when she took a domestic violence survivor into her own Hackensack home, has made the around $6,000 monthly mortgage payments since the foreclosure four years ago.

The problem, however, is that the company taking over the properties following the foreclosure now wants a full payment on the balance.

If the organization, which now houses 155 clients in seven houses on the three properties as well as running a thrift store and two day care facilities.

The organization was to meet with its lawyers on Dec. 28, the deadline given by the Florida company to come up with the money to continue.

Ramos said that the organization has had its share of financial troubles since then President Bill Clinton tightened welfare laws which then only provide benefits for a limited time and with strict requirements.

She said the organization spends about $30,000 a month for all of its expenses, including electricity, heat, and other payments, yet sometimes does not receive money, or “vouchers” from Passaic County for the people it takes in.

“We take in people that no one else will,” Ramos said.

The clients of the organization, who the Messenger has decided not to identify due to the nature of their situations, also volunteer and help out at the thrift shop, or in other ways around the shelters.

They come from a variety of places and situations, many with children, and some have been part of the shelter for years.

The shelter includes not only housing, but community kitchens and food pantries that help the clients get on their feet and interact socially with each other.

Ramos said the clients end up being more like a family and often work together, forming a bond that lasts for years.

The clients interviewed said they don’t know what will happen to their families if the organization has to leave the properties and that their children are currently doing well and thriving with the help of the group.

For one of the clients with a son that has seizures, as many as 100 on a bad day, the situation is difficult to hold down a full time job when the school is constantly calling for her to pick him up when he is ill.

Other clients say the shelters and organization are a “safe place” to be, allowing them the time and security to heal and start building a future.

Ramos said the group is hoping to find people with the resources to help it overcome the current crisis and continue.

Anyone who would like to help the organization, or would like more information, can visit www.sosdv.org.





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