Editorial | North Strand shelter changing, expanding to help growing homeless population

09/03/2013 6:13 PM

09/03/2013 6:14 PM

Open to house homeless people for less than three years, the North Strand Housing Shelter is poised to add a second building at its site on Route 9 in Longs to accommodate the growing number of families needing shelter. In 2012, a total of 198 persons were housed, including 29 children staying with parents, some for several months.

The present building, remodeled from a former women’s shelter and opened in late 2010, has only 16 beds. Beyond the people housed in 2012, an increase from 90 in 2011, “there were calls [requesting housing] representing 600 persons with close to 100 children in that count,’’ executive director Dana Black says.

To build the second, 5,000-square-foot building, two grants “are approved and in place ($35,000 and $227,000) to begin construction,’’ Black says. Bids are expected to be sought in September, she told members of the Rotary Club of Little River. The club has supported the shelter and recently learned of the approval of a Rotary District 7770 matching grant of $3,000 for purchase of beds, bedding and window treatments in the new building. Club president Donna Levinski says Rotarians will raise the matching $3,000 and members will purchase and set up the beds when the building is ready.

Black is optimistic the center will receive “approval of a $300,000 grant from the South Carolina Housing Trust Fund by the end of the year. This application has already been placed with the state.’’ With the second building, “within three years, we will have a facility of 53 persons (men, women and families) with ongoing training [to help clients secure] employment and housing. Our goal is to equip these NSHS guests with stability in the home, church, community and workplace.’’

Tripling capacity will bring many challenges. For starters, Black estimates the shelter will serve 16,896 meals in 2013, These are provided by volunteers from nearly two dozen churches and other organizations. Some evenings, guests eat at North Myrtle Beach and Little River churches that serve suppers on a regular basis. With a larger capacity, shelter meals served likely will jump to 55,968.

The added capacity also will require “an in-house administrator to organize and orchestrate activities and classes, enforce house rules and handle the increased transport needs,’’ Black says. Additional programs for counseling and employment will be needed and another challenge will be location of affordable housing and followup services after individuals or families move in.

Basic operating costs will increase and to help with those, the shelter board has established Legacy Partners. More churches and businesses will be sought to “support us as they see this tremendous need in the Horry County community.’’

The all-volunteer, faith-based shelter is a terrific example of folks outside of government seeing a problem and acting to address it. The shelter quickly was named a community partner of the United Way of Horry County. The 16 beds are occupied every night and people are turned away.

The added capacity is clearly needed. So is expanded support from organizations, businesses and individuals who understand the socio-economic ramifications of homelessness -- especially that of families who are not in that situation by choice.

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