Finding a new identity

  • Friday, June 27, 2014

Leslie Cantu/Journal Scene A temporary One80 Place sign covers the old Palmetto House sign at the women’s shelter in Summerville.

It will always be “Palmetto House” to those who recall its history, established as it was after Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Lowcountry.

But the shelter for homeless women and children changed names last week, along with its parent organization, Crisis Ministries.

Now they are One80 Place, a name the group says is meant to better reflect what it does – help people turn their lives around.

It’s been a long time since either the Charleston location or the Summerville location were simple shelters and soup kitchens, said Stacey Denaux, CEO of One80 Place.

The Summerville location, a small building on Elks Lodge Lane, is open only to women and children.

When Crisis Ministries initially took ownership of the struggling Palmetto House in 2012, it offered its counseling services to women in Summerville.

Last spring, though, the organization decided to transport the women to Charleston every day so they could more easily access all the services available at the main location.

Residents get counseling and assistance to deal with medical issues, find jobs, secure transportation and finally establish housing.

Transportation is often the trickiest part of the puzzle, Denaux said. It’s difficult for people to find jobs and affordable housing near to each other; service-economy jobs rarely pay enough so people can afford close-in housing, making reliable transportation crucial.

One80 Place doesn’t have a long-term tracking system in place for its former residents; it’s not really feasible. What Denaux can say is that about 10 percent of its former residents show up again at another homeless shelter in the Lowcountry.

The average stay is between 100 and 120 days; she’d like to shorten that somewhat, even by five days, so more people could go through the system.

There are no plans at the moment for big changes at the Summerville location, although One80 Place is offering its expertise in an effort to determine how much of a homelessness problem exists here.

Denaux said the organization participated in a meeting called by Mayor Bill Collins, and the group will spend the next several months attempting to quantify the need.

But she made it clear to the mayor that One80 Place isn’t looking to expand its Summerville location or begin offering services to men at this time.

The old version of Palmetto House proved unsustainable, she said. Even now, it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself without funds from the larger organization.

It costs about $450,000 to operate the Summerville location, Denaux said — that’s keeping the lights on and people fed, but that figure doesn’t cover program costs for counseling, education, legal services and more.

The Summerville location gets a $200,000 federal grant and about $100,000 in earmarked donations from the community, but the remainder is made up from the overall One80 Place budget, she said.

If the town doesn’t have the resources to operate a shelter for men, then the community would need to step in, she said, and history suggests such a shelter wouldn’t be sustainable.

However, she noted, it’s not clear that another shelter is what’s needed.

“We haven’t really defined the problem,” she said.

Finding people who are homeless, and talking to them about what they need, are the first steps, she said.

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