Shelter would help women, children

Women and children down on their luck might one day be able to stay at a new shelter in North Charleston.

The city, in conjunction with the North Charleston Housing Authority and private interests, wants to build a $3.6 million homeless shelter for women and children on 3.75 acres on Leary Street near the new Remount Venture LLC defense-contracting facility off North Rhett Avenue.

It will be called SOLD, which stands for Sustainable Opportunities for Life and Dreams, North Charleston Grants Administrator Shannon Praete said.

The facility would have three buildings: a 5,500-square-foot emergency shelter to house 44 women and children; a 24,500-square-foot transitional shelter to house offices; and 92 women and children for up to six months and a 900-square-foot donation center to accept clothing, food, money and furnishings.

"We think it is a great idea," Mayor Keith Summey said. The city and the Housing Authority are trying to get state and federal grants to help pay for it.

The shelter would help women reconcile their lives, get a job and eventually live on their own. It would be run by the authority.

"A lot of people are just one paycheck away from the street," Housing Authority Director George Saldana said. "With today's gas prices, we are definitely facing a crisis out there."

The property will be donated in July by Remount Venture LLC. Developer Richard Weiser is involved in the project, helping with architecture and raising money.

"Everybody is solidly behind it, and we are going to make it happen. It's a tragedy we don't have more of these facilities," Weiser said.

Furnishings for most of the facility already have been donated from the Renaissance Hotel in Charleston, which recently was renovated, Weiser said. The donations are being held in storage.

"We have desks, lockers, chairs and beds," Weiser said. "They are in great shape. We think it's going to take on a very homey look."

There is no doubt the need is there, Weiser said.

Statistics do not show the projected number of homeless people in North Charleston alone, but the projected homeless population for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties is 5,066, said Becky Van Wie, associate director of the Lowcountry Continuum of Care Partnership.

The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that families with children are one of the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population, she said.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, according to Van Wie, reported 600,000 families with 1.35 million children were homeless in 2007 and that they make up 50 percent of the nation's estimated homeless population.

Area homeless shelters include Crisis Ministries and Star Gospel Mission in Charleston, Palmetto House in Summerville and the Salvation Army and Good Neighbor Center in North Charleston.

The new center is in the early stages of development, and it will probably be late 2009 or 2010 before it opens, Praete said.

"There is always a need for shelter for homeless people. Period," said Elmire Raven, executive director of My Sister's House, which houses 36 battered women in North Charleston.