The City of Charleston has a new one-stop resource center on Meeting Street for individuals and families who are chronically homeless or at risk of becoming homeless called the Hope Center.
Since opening June 6, the center has helped 101 households by providing free laundry, shower and mail services, a food pantry, a clothing closet and meeting space for aid organizations to connect clients with health care, housing and financial resources, said LaTosha Jenkins-Fludd, the Hope Center’s director.
“For one gentleman who is homeless, we were able to get an intake done for him and get him showered and a nice set of new clothes,” Fludd said. “He was hired with Dollar General literally on the spot that day. We also helped him secure transportation to make sure that he could make it to the interview.”
Homeless individuals and families often encounter transportation challenges when traveling to different organizations for help, Fludd said. The Hope Center’s goal is to eliminate those barriers by providing all of the resources in one location.
Several partners go to the center to supply comprehensive services including: StandUp Wireless for free government phones, Palmetto Project for insurance services, Shifa Clinic for health services and the City of North Charleston homeless coordinator Brandon Lilienthal for outreach.
Offsite partners also contribute aid and supplies to the Hope Center, including One80 Place, Palmetto Goodwill, Palmetto Community Action Partnership, the Humanities Foundation, Undergarment Society, The Stone Soup Collective CHS and Seacoast Church.
“We have families that are living in their cars that come to the center for help,” Fludd said. “We have chronically homeless people who live in encampments and on the streets who have mental health and substance abuse issues who need assistance. We’ve also been successful in getting some of the single parties who don’t have children beds at One80 Place.”
Elizabeth Strickland, who has been homeless, said she started going to the Hope Center and interacting with the staff in June when she relocated to Charleston from Detroit.
“They helped me get myself together and helped me learn how to love myself because I didn’t love myself at first,” Strickland told City Paper. “I can sit with each and every one of them and talk and laugh — that’s something I’ve never been able to do before. They mentor you.”
At the time of Strickland’s interview, the Hope Center was trying to find her a shelter bed and connect her with addiction services. When she gets better, she said, her goal is to work for the center to give back.
Fludd said the definition of homelessness has changed over time. She said she has worked with people in different situations — from single moms living in hotels on the brink of getting kicked out because they can’t pay to employed people who moved to Charleston but have been unable to secure housing or who are couchsurfing.
While the Hope Center provides financial assistance for rent payments or to buy groceries in the short term, it promotes long-term solutions such as pursuing a high-school equivalency degree or gainful employment, filling out childcare vouchers and applying for food stamps, if applicable.
“We understand that people just having access to money without a plan to get out of poverty really does that person no good because ultimately it starts the cycle all over again,” Fludd said. “So we look for ways to address the gap. We sit down and we help them create a plan for self sufficiency.”
The newly opened center is continuing to renovate its building and develop partnerships with local and regional organizations to expand its roster of services.
Currently, the center is creating a lounge area, outfitting the kitchen and installing a health care program in partnership with Franklin C. Fetter Family clinic in North Charleston to provide primary care services such as health screenings and physician referrals. The center is also focused on finding partners to develop a workforce preparation program that includes a computer lab. Volunteers are needed to help organize supplies and launch a community garden program.
The Hope Center is located at 529 Meeting St. and open Monday to Wednesday 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to noon.
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