MYRTLE BEACH — Women who are victims of domestic violence soon will have a place to go again for crisis intervention in Myrtle Beach, following the shut down of Citizens Against Spouse Abuse amid allegations of embezzlement this summer.
The Center for Women and Children, which focuses on working with women in need, will begin to operate a crisis intervention facility in about a month in the former CASA property. That location will be used as an emergency center for victims of domestic violence, said CWC Director Clyde Merryman. He plans to begin the hiring process for a project manager and a live-in site manager.
“We had to completely clean that building out and do some structural repairs,” Merryman said. “Theoretically we could open the doors tomorrow, but we have to fill those positions first.”
The operation of the center, which will be known as the Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Center, would eventually transfer from CWC to a yet-to-be-formed coalition of agencies that provide services to homeless people in the Myrtle Beach area. The coalition’s steering committee will meet Wednesday afternoon at which time Merryman said he hopes the members will be able to determine when that transition would happen. The facility can hold up to 24 people, Merryman said.
The Myrtle Beach City Council approved a motion Tuesday to dispense to CWC $50,000 of outside agency funding that had been set aside for CASA before that agency shut down after its former director, Joanne Patterson, was charged with embezzlement of public funds, accused of using $29,000 in grant money from the S.C. Department of Public Safety for purposes not intended.
Mary Jeffcoat, who has been facilitating the steering committee meetings for the homeless coalition, said much of the money from the city will go toward expenses incurred to upgrade the old CASA building.
Erin Wilde, a former CASA board member, began work to launch CASA II to provide the same services CASA once did. Jeffcoat said she and Merryman met with Wilde on Monday to discuss combining forces.
“We met with part of that group yesterday and they agreed to put aside CASA II,” Jeffcoat said on Tuesday. “What they really want to do is awareness. … Erin Wilde and her folks agreed to do their work with the Center for Women and Children.”
And Merryman said education is an important part of what CWC hopes to do, especially with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“What we want to do is launch a very strong awareness program … that reinforces that violence against women is completely unacceptable. We want to demonize men [who abuse women],” he said. “There’s a troubling trend where there is more tolerance when men or boys are overly aggressive, whether sexually or physically, toward women.”
CWC has worked with those in need in the Myrtle Beach area since 2008. The main goal is to help women become independent and functional members of society through offering transitional housing, counseling and other help, Merryman said.
While not the primary focus, Merryman said the organization already works with women who are victims of domestic violence, but taking on the emergency facility would expand that work for the time being.
“What’s different now is that we’re going to have temporary housing to help with the crisis when it happens,” Merrymann said.
The women would stay at the emergency facility for about 30 days until they could be placed in a safe living environment, whether that was with a friend or relative or in transitional housing such as the one offered at CWC.
During a council workshop on Tuesday, Councilman Mike Lowder stressed the importance of having emergency facilities available for victims of domestic violence but said he felt that 30 days was a long time for the women to stay in the temporary housing. He said women using CASA’s facility initially were supposed to stay for 24 to 48 hours but ended up living there for months.
Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means argued that it often takes longer for women to find a new living situation.
“Very few women had a place to go in 24 or 48 hours and those women were more susceptible to being talked into going back into the situation and continuing the cycle,” Means said.
Merryman agreed with Means, saying that he doesn’t believe the Myrtle Beach area has enough transitional housing available.
“We’ve got to understand that what we really need is places for these folks to go for however long it takes for them to gain independence,” he said.
Merryman said that once the women leave the emergency facility and are placed – whether with family, friends or in a transitional facility – they will continue to work with them to ensure they become fully-functioning, independent, self-reliant women.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.