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There’s hope for the homeless here

The Lowcountry Community Action Agency (LCAA) is continuing to fight homelessness and poverty through recent grant funding.

“We have been able to house 60 people at our shelter at 617 Black Street during the past fiscal year,” said Colleton County LCAA Director Arlene Washington Thursday. “We also prevented homelessness for another 150 individuals and their family members,” she added.

The shelter has been open in Colleton County since the mid 1980’s. It has 24 beds, cooking facilities, and showering facilities. It is open to women, children, and family members. Washington pointed out, however, that men can stay at the facility only if they can provide proof of marriage to a woman staying at the shelter. “The true purpose of the shelter is for people to be able to stay there temporarily until we can find them permanent housing and can develop a program for them to be able to sustain themselves and become self-sufficient,” Washington said.

The building at which the shelter is located is county-owned. During the past fiscal year, many people were helped through the federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Grant. “This helped to allow us to assist a multitude of people,” Washington said. “We were able to stop many foreclosures and found permanent housing for a lot of people, many of whom are still sustaining themselves today.”

Newly obtained funding through the federal Emergency Solutions Grant is enabling the shelter to continue operations. The matching grant requires an equal amount of additional public funding to perpetuate the funding, so any donation from the public or local businesses are welcome.

If LCAA is dealing with a woman or family with young children three-to-four years old, they are automatically enrolled in the federal Head-start Program and receive all available comprehensive and educational services. Busses pick children up, take them to school, and returns them home again at the end of school. Children living at the shelter in Walterboro are also entitled to Title Nine federal benefits, which assists them with school supplies and uniforms.

The Colleton County Department of Social Services is also contacted in case there is a need assistance to determine what benefits are available through that agency. The One-Stop facility at the South Carolina Employment Commission is also utilized for help in finding employment. She noted that the One Stop facility provides many services, including instruction in the writing of resumes.

LCCA personnel also partner with the Colleton County Drug and Alcohol Commission in cases in which people they are dealing with have a drug and/or alcohol problem. “We partner and collaborate with a number of local agencies to ensure that people can self-sustain,” Washington said.

Washington noted that many of the homeless people living in Walterboro and surrounding county will not participate in the help that LCAA offers. “They prefer to stay on the outside,” Washington said. “Colleton County covers a very wide area, and there could be people in need out there that we are just not seeing.” For further information, Washington or members of her staff can be reached by calling (843) 549-5576.