A line forms outside Crisis Ministries' shelter on upper Meeting Street almost every afternoon as men wait for the 5 p.m. opening.
But that stark reminder of local pain and poverty will disappear as the organization that has served the area's homeless people for 30 years improves its practices and opens a new shelter.
Changes are in store for the organization as it evolves to better incorporate what is known to work in helping the homeless achieve self-sufficiency, said Stacey Denaux, including a name change to One80 Place.
The new name
The organization was launched as the Charleston Interfaith Crisis Assistance Ministry, a grassroots effort among many churches to offer basic shelter and a soup kitchen to the homeless, Denaux said. The name eventually was shortened to Crisis Ministries, she said, but it was confusing because it doesn't accurately portray what the organization does.
It's not a faith-based organization, even though many local church members contribute time and money to it. And it does much more than help people through a crisis, she said. "Our goal is that they not stay bogged down in that crisis for long."
Paul Kohlheim, chairman of the group's board, said the new name is appropriate because the organization is about helping people turn their lives around. It does that not only by providing shelter, but by helping them overcome legal, health and other problems. "Getting someone from homelessness to self-sufficiency is a complex task," he said.
Kohlheim said the group has spent the past year creating a strategic plan for the future. That process revealed that the organization didn't need to offer more services, he said, it simply needed to improve and expand some of what it already offered.
Denaux said some new systems will be put in place that reflect the best practices known for helping homeless people. For instance, she said, many people who become homeless have been traumatized in various ways, and the shelter experience can re-traumatize them. The new building will prevent that, she said. It's light, clean and welcoming. And the men no longer will have to line up outside.
That happens now, she said, because the dorm serves as a dining hall during the day. The new shelter has a separate dining room.
Shelter workers also will treat people who suffer from both alcohol and drug addiction and mental health problems differently, she said. In the past people thought it was best to treat the addiction first, then deal with the mental health problems. But now, shelter professionals know it's best to treat both conditions at the same time.
The new shelter
The new $7.8 million shelter currently is under construction and will be complete in early August. The organization will hold a grand opening celebration Nov. 7, Denaux said.
The group has a nearby house for women and families, she said, which was renovated in 2009.
The new facility, behind the current shelter on upper Meeting Street, will have 70 beds in the men's dorm, 40 beds for male veterans, a large kitchen and dining hall, and more office space.
The current shelter has space for 70 men and 14 veterans.
Crisis Ministries provided shelter for more than 1,000 people last year and offered services through its other programs to about 2,000 people.
Kohlheim said the group so far has raised about $6 million for the new facility. That includes $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It still is trying to raise the remaining $1.8 million.
Denaux and Kohlheim said an embezzlement case currently in the courts hasn't hurt the group's fundraising efforts. Earlier this week, Carol Libby, the group's former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to a charge in connection to the embezzlement of about $440,000 from the charity over a seven-year period.
Kohlheim said he thinks the group has established a solid reputation as an important and reputable charity over the past 30 years. If it didn't exist, he said, "our streets in Charleston would be very different.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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