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Rock Hill Emergency Shelter For Homeless Women To Open In 2022

Gregory Pappas
A new shelter for women experiencing homelessness will soon open in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

As Sue Fullerton wandered around the soon-to-be women’s shelter in Rock Hill, South Carolina, she thought about the many homeless women she’s encountered over a decade working at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“Can’t you just imagine women in here cooking together?” she said, pointing to the small kitchen in the West Main Street home, which soon will become a 24-hour emergency shelter for homeless women, called Her Place.

The kitchen’s appliances were gone. Brown splotches stained the white floor where the appliances used to be. A handful of dishes were still stashed in one of the walnut cabinets.

Next to Fullerton, Regeana Phillips, vice president of Her Place, huddled over a foldable table and looked intently at stacks of blueprints, which detailed the home’s extensive renovations.

The women, who’ve both worked at St. Mary’s outreach program, spent years dreaming up Her Place.

While at the church, Fullerton said she helped women who had lived in the woods, on park benches and in cars.

“We had two women a few months back who said, ‘We just need a tent because we want to sleep together in the woods. We’re afraid of everybody else. We feel like if we have a tent we can stay together and the guys won’t bother us,’” Fullerton said. “That’s horrible. People should not have to live that way. And they do.”

In 2019, the South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness reported that York County was among the 10 counties with the highest number of homeless individuals. At the time, York County had 124 homeless individuals, according to the report.

There was only so much Fullerton and other church volunteers could do for homeless women, she said.

“There’s no place for them to go,” Fullerton said. “There are places in Rock Hill for women with children. There’s stuff for families and stuff for men, but there’s nothing for just single women on their own.”

'Something That Doesn't Exist'

Now, there will be.

In 2019, Fullerton and Phillips, who both have experience leading local nonprofits, recruited a handful of women involved in community service to help make Her Place a reality. The group determined that Her Place would operate 24 hours a day to house homeless women 18 and older.

“We just see there is a big need for women,” Phillips said. “We don’t want it to be the typical shelter where you kick them out at eight o’clock in the morning because what’s going to happen? They’re going to go back to the same ways.”

Fullerton and her husband operate another Rock Hill nonprofit, known as Truck of Love, and although Her Place will function as a separate nonprofit, Truck of Love will play a role in renovating and maintaining the home, Fullerton said.

After about a year of fundraising, and through a donation from Truck of Love, Her Place was able to raise about $360,000, which allowed the women to pay cash for the West Main Street property a few months ago.

Fullerton said she hopes to open Her Place by 2022.

“We intend it to be a full service shelter — something that doesn’t exist here at the present time,” Fullerton said.

Even so, Fullerton said Her Place will need to coordinate with the several other nonprofits in York County that assist homeless individuals, including Pilgrims’ Inn and Salvation Army.

“We’re each going to do something different,” Fullerton said. “There may be times when we need to send somebody to them or maybe, they can send somebody to us.”

“Exactly,” Phillips jumped in.

Her Place Renovations

Fullerton expects the renovations on the home, which will house 15 women, to require around $300,000. After purchasing the house, the nonprofit has enough to start renovations but not finish, she said.

“We need electricity,” Fullerton said. “We need plumbing. We need a sprinkler system. We do need to clean out the underside of the house because there’s washed water down there. Everything needs fixing. Everything. We’ve got to remodel seven bathrooms.”

Fullerton and Phillips envision Her Place to be more than just a place for women to stay.

“We will help the women do whatever they need to do in their lives to start new lives,” Fullerton said. “If they need to get a job, we’ll help them get a job. If they need medical care, we’ll help to get them to the doctor’s. We have people who have committed themselves to help out of these ways.”

Fullerton said Her Place plans to allow women to stay between 60-90 days, but they’ll be able to stay longer “as long as (the women) are working toward getting their lives together.”

“We will not be a substance abuse center,” Fullerton said. “We will not be a physical abuse center. We will be for women who’ve been on the street or coming out of jail who need a safe place — a place where they can relax, rejuvenate and plan their future.”

Although the shelter has finally started to come together, Fullerton said opening Her Place’s doors couldn’t come soon enough.

“Another woman came in (to the church) the other day,” she said. “She had been living with her mother. Her mother died. The house was foreclosed on. She was on the street that night her mother died.

“I look at them and I say, ‘If it was a year from now, we would have a place for you.’”

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