Much More Than a Homeless Shelter

The Salvation Army of Pickens County Service Center Unit Director, Jim Abbott, shares his vision regarding the potential benefits of an Emergency Wellness Center in Pickens County.

"There is current discussion in Pickens County regarding the need for a place where our neighbors experiencing homelessness can temporarily reside. This place of refuge would give an opportunity for individuals to save the money required to obtain a sustainable residence. However, The Salvation Army of Pickens County feels a "Temporary Emergency Wellness Center" could provide much more to our Pickens County Family.

There are a few components to this endeavor in which we must consider:

The idea for a temporary center creates a platform to receive and stabilize an individual and develop a working plan to either transition them back to sustainable living, or refer them for additional assistance. Residents would be welcomed for a maximum of 90 - 120 days within any 12 month consecutive period of time. The shelter opportunity should be seen as a stepping stone to a sustainable living environment, not a destination. Our goal is to empower those in need to become contributing and successful members of our community.

Many circumstances can cause an individual to need access to emergency shelter. Catastrophe, new chapters of life and veteran
re-entry are just a few examples of the need in Pickens County.

Catastrophe- Fire damage, flooding, freezing pipes, and other weather-related damage can present a problem to every homeowner, but especially to those without home insurance or the additional income to cover damage repair. There are a number of mobile homes and other dwellings in Pickens County with a higher risk to temperatures and weather related damage. For example, our neighbors whose pipes freeze in their mobile home could benefit from having a warm place to stay with showers, laundry facilities and meals as they wait for the cold to break and their pipes to unfreeze. We saw our neighbors experience this in Norris, SC earlier this year. Homes were not liveable, and there was a need to stay in the area for school, work and church support. Having a local, safe, temporary place to stay would help transition families back into their homes with minimal interruption of on-going commitments to family, jobs, church, etc.

New life chapters - Life events such as loss of job, divorce and loss of a loved one interrupt one's ability to sustain a household for a period of time. Coping with emotional shock while trying to balance reduced or no household income is overwhelming, especially for those living on or below the poverty line. A temporary shelter would help to stabilize individuals' physical needs and connect them with resources as they enter into a new life chapter.

Veteran re-entry - Individuals who have served overseas must make a huge transition back into main stream society upon their return. Many contributing factors can make this difficult. A wellness center could provide refuge while providing an opportunity for veterans to save money for future permanent housing. Support groups, job placement assistance and counseling would provide additional support to their re-entry transition.

Wellness Center
Trainings and access to other social service agencies providing emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellness support could be provided to both residents and clients.

Community service center - Volunteers would be welcome to assist in the relational support of our neighbors attending wellness classes. Mentoring opportunities could be as simple as how to balance a checkbook, learn a new hobby, or how to cook a well balanced meal. The campus could become a safe, trained and supported platform for healthy volunteer service of others. We want our volunteers to discover their own gifts and purpose as we love our neighbors.

Employment hub for proven entry level workforce - The wellness center staff would work with residents to target the employment eligibility documents and pre-employment soft skills required to enter or re-enter the workforce. With a steady flow of training, we could secure a hiring pool source for local businesses requiring entry level workers. We could focus on ensuring ID cards, social security cards and birth certificates for all residents. We could collaborate with adult education in providing access to GED certificates as well.

Reduce cost for uninsured emergency room visits - Preventative medical care access could be provided to residents and clients. This service would benefit the community as a whole in reducing the amount of walk in, uninsured emergency room visits. Providing this access will help the hospital system to be more efficient in reaching a broader scope of residents at one time for preventative health care and ultimately reducing overall cost back to the public.

The Emergency Wellness Center would be not only a homeless shelter, but a wellness center serving our community with a holistic approach. The ultimate goal is for Pickens County to work together as we develop "ACES" based strategies: Accountable, Collaborative, Empowering and Sustainable."

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