As Hurricane Matthew bears down on South Carolina and residents leave per Gov. Nikki Haley’s evacuation order, homeless shelters are preparing for those who choose to stay.
“We have secured everything that is around each one of the shelters to make sure that everything is secure,” said Kathy Jenkins, executive director at New Directions. The organization operates a men’s shelter, a women’s shelter and family shelter. None of the shelters were subject to an evacuation order as of Thursday night.
“The evacuation plan is tied in with Coast RTA,” said Jenkins. “Coast RTA is evacuating people who do not have evacuation and that evacuation started at noon. If they evacuate Zone B, and all of our shelters are in Zone B, then we will follow suit with Coast RTA to get our people out as well.”
In Horry County, some of the transient population are being sent to Ocean Bay Middle School and Ocean Bay Elementary to wait out the storm. But Jenkins said they’ve already “put the word out” to the homeless that they’re welcome at New Directions.
“We do have hurricane shutters at the family shelters,” said Jenkins. “We have picked up a lot of extra food. We have let the police, the city and other area agencies know that we are open to anybody who needs to come in and get out of the storm, no questions asked.”
Some homeless residents like Russell Heath have other plans.
Heath, 56, said he stayed in a Dumpster in Florida during Hurricane Ivan, and experienced Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Heath said he’s been living on the streets of Myrtle Beach since The Pavilion was torn down and he doesn’t plan on getting on a bus or staying in a shelter.
“I’ve been to all those places,” he said. “I don’t even go there. There’s too many wackos. Walking around, talking on their cell, cussing all the time doing this and that.”
Heath said he’ll be staying near a friend’s business during the storm if the weather isn’t too harsh.
“I got a place I can run to, down the road a bit,” he said. “If it gets real bad, the lady I know, her husband is coming from Murrells Inlet to take me to their house. Otherwise, I do it on my own, man.”
But for youth who stay in the shelters, going it alone isn’t so easy.
Wendy Gore, development director at Sea Haven in Little River, said if appropriate, youth would be sent back home during a bad storm.
Sea Haven is an organization that serves homeless and abused youth ages 13 to 18, and the Little River shelter isn’t always a permanent location for them.
“They’re here on an emergency basis anyway, they’re not here to stay,” said Gore. “If we can send them back home for a couple days until the storm passes and then they can come back, that’s what we do.”
In case of an evacuation and if the youth are homeless have no place else to go, Sea Haven has partnered with other shelters in North Carolina and South Carolina to house the youth, who would be accompanied by staff.
The shelter was not housing any homeless children on Thursday, but had been providing shelter for youth those who had been referred from the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“They have gotten in trouble maybe at school for truancy or incorrigibleness or things like that, or they’re awaiting a court date,” said Gore. “And to keep them from going to jail up in Colombia, sometimes they’ll stay here until they have their court date or until they can go back home.”
If an evacuation is necessary, youth from DJJ need to be placed in detention centers away from the coast, and Gore said that Sea Haven sent those particular youth to detention centers on Wednesday.
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