The death of a homeless man in Little River has become a focal point in an effort to open the North Strand Housing Shelter. For many people already working toward a shelter, Phillip's death in the woods near the Little River United Methodist Church illustrates a pressing need for a shelter to serve the area. "That broke my heart," said Cookie Weber of Phillip's passing in mid-March.
"I had taken him as a personal project. I took him to Shallotte, N.C., to file for unemployment," Weber recalled. She is active in the church and became concerned when he didn't show up for the Friday evening meal served at the church's Shepherd's Table. "I couldn't find him for four days," so she notified the Horry County Coroner's Office. Phillip's body was found in the woods not far from the church.
"We don't want another winter to go by with no place for them to go," Weber said, no doubt speaking for many North Strand residents who are concerned about caring for the homeless. Many of those who are working for a shelter are involved in providing meals such as those at Hope's Kitchen of Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church and the recently started Master's Meal at Trinity United Methodist Church, both in North Myrtle Beach. Barefoot Church on Main Street has a Celebrate Recovery program headed by Ron Causey, who will be the coordinator at the new shelter.
Dana and Michael Bolch, members of the Care Team at Barefoot Church, invited homeless men to stay overnight in their home. Their experience led them to establish Worldview Mission International, a nonprofit organization. Dana Bolch said WMI recently received its 501(c)3 designation. North Strand Housing Shelter is an arm of WMI and has set up "Phillip's Fund" at Anderson Brothers Bank in North Myrtle Beach.
Bolch said the shelter organization is close to a contract to purchase a house on S.C. 9 that she and her husband envision as a shelter. "Numerous people have volunteered to give labor and materials, which is encouraging," she said. The house, on a rural site, will need some remodeling to make it work as an overnight shelter. The house has eight bedrooms and formerly was a women's shelter. Bolch envisions "a holistic approach - not just overnighting and feeding."
The most immediate need, Bolch said, is to raise $10,000 for a down payment on the house. She spoke to a group of interested persons on Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church. She and her husband also talked to Cliff Rudd, community development director for Myrtle Beach. "We've been slammed with meeting people - which is wonderful," Dana Bolch said.
A Phillip Fund Spaghetti Dinner is set for June 12 at Little River United Methodist. Trinity is assisting in that fundraiser. "Everything looks good on a contract for the house," Bolch said, and she is further encouraged by North Myrtle Beach City Manager John Smithson's comment on the area's homeless population - 893 in Horry County as of 2009: "We do want to assist and be a part of any solution."