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The Samaritan House’s board is asking the public for help reopening the Middleton Street homeless shelter as the clock is ticking on building foreclosure.

Shelter gets City of Orangeburg support; Samaritan House officials hope for 2020 reopening

"We are stepping out on faith," Samaritan House Board Chair Brenda Jamerson told those gathered for a Tuesday morning press conference at the former shelter. "We are optimistic. We believe the community of Orangeburg will heed the call for action."

"We need each of you to join us," she said. "We all have a call to serve to knock out homelessness in Orangeburg County. It is the humanitarian thing to do. It is the right thing to do."

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Through Aug. 20, about $300,000 has been raised in donations and pledges from 40 donors.  The total needed to open and maintain operations for a year is $400,000.

Jamerson says the organization has 30 days to prove to the lenders the organization has sufficient funds to open and maintain the facility.

"We need to raise about $100,000 more in these 30 days through donations and pledges to reach the goal of $400,000," she said. "Otherwise, foreclosure sales may take place in October."

The goal is to have the monies raised and the shelter reopened by January 2020.

The Middleton Street shelter closed its doors three years ago due to a lack of funds.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cut funding for transitional homeless housing programs at that time.

HUD officials at the time decided to shift focus and invest dollars in permanent housing programs. HUD provided the majority of the $250,000 annual operating budget.

The shelter opened in 2001 as faith-based nonprofit organization.

In addition to HUD, the non-profit shelter was supported through donations, local government and local churches, but monies for these organizations and fundraising efforts were not enough to keep the doors open.

The shelter offered transitional services such as life-skill training, job placement, medical care, housing, transportation and referral services. Jamerson said upon reopening, similar services will be offered.

Nowhere to lay your head: Answers sought for homeless after shelter's closure

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler has been trying for years to get the Samaritan House open.

"I think we will be able to do it," he said, asking the community to be generous with their donations.

"It is so necessary that we open this home back," he said. "It needs to be occupied."

Seeing the need, Butler began to spearhead efforts to see the shelter reopened. A seven-member board formed about four months ago as part of this effort.

An assessment of the building and its needs has been done, revealing glaring issues. While vacant, the building has been vandalized several times.

The windows are knocked out, parts have been stolen out of the air conditioners, and the refrigerator and freezer have also been stolen.

There are also plumbing issues and beds are covered with mildew. The hot water heater and two washers and driers also need to be replaced.

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Wiring has been cut throughout the building and its onsite truck was also stolen.

The building also has leaks, meaning the entire roof will need to be replaced.

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It will cost about $150,000 to make the facility move-in ready. The roof itself would cost about $70,000.

The City of Orangeburg has already committed to providing $170,000 to the effort.

Orangeburg County Council has promised $52,000, but Councilwoman Deloris Frazier, who was in attendance at the press conference, said she is hoping council will be willing to give more.

"We need to give them what they need," she said.

But Jamerson said the shelter will also need money to sustain itself into the future as federal funding has not changed.

"We have to continuously all the time be fundraising," she said. "We have to continuously apply for grants. When you have a nonprofit, you have to continuously apply for funds."

In an effort to save money, Jamerson says the shelter will open with a "skeleton crew."

"We are going to open gradually because we want to get our footing. We don't want to fill all 40 beds at one time."

"We don't want to open so widely so that next year we can't maintain," she said. "I am asking for volunteers so we can open with a lot of volunteers so we don't have to pay for much staff just to get our foot in the door."

Jamerson estimates there are about 1,200 homeless in the Orangeburg area.

"We see evidence of the continued need all around Orangeburg County," Jamerson said, noting homeless can be seen living in wooded areas, vacant buildings, emergency rooms and fast-food restaurants. "They are unclean, hungry and in some cases they are ill."

Charlene A. Baker, who has lived in the Orangeburg area for the past 25 years, donated $200 to the Samaritan House and will donate more if needed.

"The Samaritan House was a very productive place for homeless people," Baker said. "I thought it was worthwhile to support it."

Baker said she wants to be part of the solution to the problem and so she gave.

"You see the need," she said. "You see people walking around ... who are hot and they need places to go. This is very helpful to them as they need some place to stay."

Several individuals donated on site with the amount of their respective donations shouted out to those gathered.

Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg said the local legislative delegation will be supportive of reopening Samaritan House.

"It is going to take us to make this thing happen," Govan said. "Even though it has had its ups and downs, what we have to focus on now is the present and the need."

"This is going to take a public/private partnership," he said. "It is unfortunate that it has gotten to this point, but the need for this service has not gone away. This time we have to make it right."

"If not us, then who?," Govan said. "If not now, then when?"

Individuals took a tour of the building following the press conference.

Jamerson says cash donations, in-kind donations, volunteers and word-of-mouth support are all ways individuals can help contribute to the reopening of the shelter.

Volunteers needed include: office assistant; grant research and writer; lawn and yard maintenance; handyman; laundry services; tutor, and security.

Appreciation was given for all those who have already donated and pledged.

To help the fundraising and reopening efforts, call 803-533-6000 or 803-707-2786 or email at bjamerson3@juno.com

Checks can be made payable to: The Samaritan House of Orangeburg County, Incorporated, P.O. Box 2392, Orangeburg, SC 29116.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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