It was a freezing Tennessee night (18 degrees, to be exact) when Tim Lejeune, his wife, and three kids (a daughter, 16, and two sons- 15 and 5) decided it was too cold to sleep in the family car, as they usually did. This had become a constant reality for the family after becoming homeless. After seeing the white flag over the Johnson City Salvation Army shelter indicating room to stay, Lejeune lead his family over there to finally have beds to sleep in.
However, when they reached the shelter, they were turned away. The reason? One of his sons was 15 years old.
Apparently, the current Salvation Army policy doesn’t allow them to host boys 12-16 years old. Lejeune recalled the conversation between him and the man who turned them away:
?He said, ?I’m sorry, your son, y?all can’t stay here, because of his age.’ I said, ?Are you kidding me???
He also added that they said
“[his son]’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?.
The Lejeune family went to the Johnson City police department, who then tried to persuade the Salvation Army to let them stay; however they did not prevail.
The police began to pool their own money together, as well as money donated by 911 dispatchers, and offered to get them a room in the Johnson Inn for the night. According to authorities, the clerk at the motel saw what the officers were doing and comped the room for the family that night. Since the police still had the pooled money, they used it to by groceries, the family’s dinner, and left the family the remaining cash.
?I’m very proud that we employ people with that fortitude that care about the citizens,? said?Johnson City Police Maj. Garry Younger about the officers involved.
The officers involved were identified by police as?AD McElroy, Justin Jenkins, Toma Sparks, and Robert McCurry.
Salvation Army Captain Michael Cox says that the rule prohibiting boys ages 12-16 from staying in the shelters has been there for some time and has only been enforced once before. He also said that “it was an unfortunate situation altogether,” ?but that they, however,?”did offer further assistance and that was denied.”
The policy is now under review.
The Lejeune family has been to the same shelter since and has been able to stay there, however not because of a policy change. The 15 year old son suffered a breakdown after the incident, feeling that it was his fault, and is now staying in a mental health facility.
Now, the family is looking for schools for the children, work, and a home so that they can live and be reunited with their son.
Watch the WMC Action 5 News report here: