Homeless in the Myrtle Beach area will have a new place to get clean

A group of homeless men shelter in the stairwell of the Myrtle Beach parking deck in 2015.
A group of homeless men shelter in the stairwell of the Myrtle Beach parking deck in 2015. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Homeless services organization New Directions is embarking on two new facilities that officials say could help take more chronically homeless people off the streets.

A new shower facility and an expanded medical clinic could help bring people on the streets into contact with New Directions staff, Executive Director Kathy Jenkins said.

“To get those people into the shelter, you have to find a hook, you have to find something that’s going to have a positive interaction,” said Mary Jo Rogers, the chair of the shelter system’s board.

The shower center would be built on land next to New Directions’ shelter for men at 1005 Osceola St. in Myrtle Beach. Last week, Rogers said that the property owner of an adjacent lot, Ed Jackson, had volunteered to build the facility on his land. Jackson could not be reached on Monday.

The facility would be run by Catholic Charities. Deacon Dan Powers of the Archdiocese of Charleston said the group already runs a similar facility in Columbia called Clean of Heart, where 26 people received showers in four hours while he visited last week.

Clients at that center typically come once a week by appointment and their clothes are laundered while they shower, Powers said. He called the service a “beautiful ministry” and said for some of the homeless population, simply being called by their name is a huge lift.

“They’re treated so badly in general society and here’s a place where they can come and feel welcomed and respected and get clean,” Powers said.

He said that while part of the goal is to connect the chronically homeless with service providers, there’s no requirement that the people who shower enter a shelter.

“We have contact with people who don’t feel comfortable going there yet...you can see it in their face that it’s a scary proposition for some of these folks,” Powers said.

New Directions’ other goal, the medical clinic, would be operated 40 hours a week by Little River Medical Center. The healthcare provider which already offers some services at New Directions’ shelter for men. Grand Strand Medical Center is also expected to help staff the expansion, though plans are in the early stages, Jenkins said.

“The hope is to expand the services and to be able to provide clinical assessment to every person who comes into our shelter or comes into our shower facility,” Jenkins said.

The Sun News was unable to reach representatives of Little River Medical Center and Grand Strand Medical Center on Monday.

Jenkins said New Directions staff has not determined whether it would have to build more space as it adds increased care. She said that start-up and operating costs for similar clinics elsewhere are $235,000 in a year.

Rogers told Myrtle Beach City Council last week that New Directions was not seeking any additional financing from the city for the medical services.

New Directions served 1,213 individuals in non-emergency situations in the past year, slightly down from 1,250 the year before, Rogers said.

It offers homeless shelters for men, women and families, as well as job training programs.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ