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A home for the holidays

Posted: December 26, 2013 5:07 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2013 5:00 a.m.

During the colder months of the year, many Kershaw County residents take for granted having a warm house in which to stay. But for some, having their own residence is not a reality. The United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC) is hoping to change that.

One of the UWKC’s four focus areas is ending hunger and homelessness in the county. As a step in that direction, the UWKC opened its first men’s transitional shelter to three men on Dec. 13.

UWKC President Donny Supplee hopes that Shelter from the Storm, the UWKC’s new transitional shelter component, will give people caught in a cycle of homelessness and addictions encouragement.

“It is a part of our efforts to end homelessness and hunger, which is of course one of our major goals,” Supplee said. “What we are trying to get them to see with this shelter is that there is a way out. If you choose that way out and go get treatment, we’ll help you get straightened out and give you the services you need. You can change your lifestyle.”

A single family home on Fair Street serves as the transitional housing shelter for a maximum of four men. Residents of the home are required to work or to volunteer in the community. Rent for the residents is 30 percent of their income with the UWKC paying for the remainder, a point that Supplee stresses requires financial support from the community.

“The way we cover the difference is through people giving to the United Way … we need help. One of the great stories that helped us kick this off is Pine Tree Hill Elementary School (PTHS),” Supplee said.

PTHS students raised $2,800 for the UWKC by hosting school dances.

Originally, the money was going to go towards Christmas gifts for children.

“We asked that, instead, how about if we gave three men a house for Christmas. They said, ‘Yeah, that would be awesome,’” Supplee said. “We got to go and thank them for what they did for these three guys, to give them a place to stay.”

Supplee said the UWKC hopes that residents will be able to transition into supporting themselves by saving money through staying at the shelter with reduced rent.

“It is a step up, a step towards independence. The idea is that they move from the shelter to their own permanent housing in the future,” he said.

According to Supplee, a lack of affordable housing in a community has a direct link to homelessness and can lead to a cycle that is difficult to escape. People paying for temporary housing solutions -- such as at a motel -- are often unable to save enough money to afford rent at a more stable environment.

“One of the keys is getting more affordable housing in the community so that people who don’t make very much money can live in a house that’s not dilapidated, but is safe and affordable. The more (affordable housing) we have the less we’d have of homelessness,” Supplee said.

For the UWKC, the creation of a men’s shelter was been met with much excitement.

“For the 20 years I’ve been here, there has been a need for a men’s shelter that has services with it,” Supplee said. “We wanted there to be this service and we kept talking about it. The housing partnership made it one of our goals to research the possibilities and we came to a point where we needed someone to step up and lead the charge.”

Needs of the homeless men in the community moved along the talk to action. For example, one of the men who is now living at Shelter from the Storm has medical problems that require living in a clean home environment.

“One of the men needed a home for health reasons -- that really emphasized the fact that we didn’t need to just keep talking about whether we need a shelter,” Supplee said.

Along with the UWKC, other organizations are lending a hand to meet the needs of the men living at the transitional shelter.

“We are working with The ALPHA Center, they are offering screenings and counseling,” Supplee said. “It’s about a partnership with the medical clinic, The ALPHA Center, churches and other community agencies. It’s been amazing how it all comes together.”

Supplee said he hopes, and expects, that more shelters of this kind will continue to open in the community to meet the requests of other men

“We do foresee that there will be others in the community. We’ve had a number of guys come forward to say they would like to be considered as well,” he said.

So far, local churches and organizations have donated money for the needs of the shelter.

“We have all the beds we need and all the linens we need. There will be, of course, an ongoing need for food and toiletries, things like that,” Supplee said.

Those wishing to donate monetarily to this project can specify that they wish to give to Shelter from the Storm.

“A designated gift to this program will go only to this program,” Supplee said.

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