Breaking News
More () »

As homelessness rises through the Midlands, Lee County is opening its first-ever homeless shelter

As homelessness rises in the Midlands, Lee County Shared Hope is trying to help by opening its first physical shelter to provide a safe place for people to sleep.

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — As the homeless population increases across the Midlands, the only homeless shelter in Lee County is getting ready to open. Lee County Shared Hope, Inc. will be renovating its first physical location to expand its services.

Peggy Mixon struggled with homelessness a year ago. 

"I’m 67 years old," she said. "If you don’t have a place to live, you might just give up and die."

Now, Mixon says she's doing good and has a safe home. She found Lee County Shared Voices and connected with board president Luke Giddings. Giddings has helped many other people like Mixon.

RELATED: Midlands organizations helping children facing homelessness, neglect

"To date, we have assisted over 388 individuals in Lee County in the last year," he said. "And that’s without having a facility open."

That all is changing this week. Shared Voices is transforming a building into a homeless shelter, which will provide a place to sleep for 20 people.

"Lee County was founded in 1903, and ever since then we’ve never had a homeless shelter," Giddings said.

Frances Drayton, who founded the nonprofit, is excited to be expanding services. In 2015, Drayton saw that there was a problem in her community. Along with a local church, she started the nonprofit. Since then, she has seen the impact it's made.

"There’s so much need, and the people know somehow that they can trust us," Drayton explained.

In about two months, Drayton says this new physical shelter will be open.

Bishopville Mayor Grady Brown says this is coming at the right time, as the homeless population is increasing throughout the county due to factors like inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’s something that every community needs and needs to be aware of," Brown said.

RELATED: Lee County decides how to spend COVID relief funds

After the renovations on the main building are finished, Giddings explains the next steps is to tear down this building right here. He says in its place, the nonprofit will work with Clemson Extension to plant a garden, which hopefully will grow produce for residents.

In the meantime, he is looking for more community support.

"Even though we’re almost nearing the final completion of the building, it’s going to take a lot of funding to keep this going," Giddings said. "So every penny counts, and every person who wants to donate their time counts."

In the past, Giddings said funding has been the reason that other permanent shelters haven't opened. With community assistance, however, he hopes Shared Voices will last for a long time.

Drayton says she has already seen support from the local community.

"The people of Lee County and Bishopville have accepted our idea so well," Drayton said. "They’ll come up to us on the street and say ‘I know what you’re doing. I like what you’re doing.’ They agree and we’ve had good, good results from that."

Before You Leave, Check This Out