Emergency shelter to honor Courtney Graham
Christmas came early for the House of Hope of the Pee Dee. It received a $350,000 gift to establish an emergency shelter to meet the growing needs of homeless men, women and children in the Pee Dee area. A downtown building has been found for this emergency shelter which will be named in honor of the late Courtney McGinnis Graham who passed away unexpectedly in June of this year.
Courtney was the founder of SNAC (Shelter and Nourishment for All Children) which assists homeless and indigent families of Florence School District 1 students. Courtney had a heart for the homeless and it was her desire to see a place where they could find shelter, especially in extreme hot, cold and inclement weather, said Bryan Braddock, executive director of the House of Hope of the Pee Dee. He worked closely with Courtney through her involvement with SNAC and they had many discussions about this need.
“Courtney recognized that one of the missing elements to serving the homeless was an emergency shelter,” he said. With that in mind, an anonymous donor started the ball rolling for such a place in honor of Courtney in the amount of $350,000. Since then the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation has pledged $200,000 for this shelter and other donations are promised. “This gift honoring Courtney will fill a huge void in services available to the homeless in the area,” noted Braddock.
The House of Hope Board accepted this project provided funds are in place or pledged for the building and renovation, as well as operation costs for at least 18 months. Projected costs for the purchase, renovations, beds, kitchen and other furnishings are expected to be in the range of $850,000, but more than 50% of these funds have been received or verbally committed.
A building on Railroad Avenue is under contract with closing expected to take place this week. Renovations are expected to begin early in 2016 and the remaining funds for the renovation and furnishings will need to be raised quickly. The goal is to have the shelter up and running by May 29, 2016, which was Courtney’s birthday.
The architect’s drawings for the emergency shelter includes space for 80 people – 26 beds for women, 30 for men and space for five families. Proposed hours of operation will be 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. with evening meals and breakfast served. According to the latest HUD Point in Time count of homeless individuals, there were over 100 unsheltered men, women and children in the Pee Dee area in 2015, noted Braddock.
Also, the Homeless Committee of Helping Florence Flourish identified the need for an emergency shelter in this area. This new community center will be different from the House of Hope and other local transitional shelters, Braddock said. The House of Hope currently provides long term 24/7 food, clothing and housing for over 50 men, women and children.
The House of Hope helps meet their transition to independent living through a Christian life recovery program, helping them attain employment, life skills and save money so they can move into permanent housing. The emergency shelter will provide overnight housing, showers and meals in a safe place of refuge for men, women and children. It will be set up to serve anyone without a place to sleep safely, including those living in abandoned buildings, under bridges and in the woods.