Domestic violence advocates ask for shelter in Horry County: 'We need help'

Advocates against domestic violence are pushing for a shelter in Horry County. Right now, there isn't any shelter for domestic violence victims. They asked county leaders for help in Thursday's Public Safety Committee Meeting. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

As it stands right now, domestic violence victims in Horry County have to go to Georgetown County for shelter.

But, on Thursday, advocates from the Family Justice Center in Horry and Georgetown Counties said they wanted to change that.

Vicki Bourus, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center, asked Horry County leaders at the Public Safety Committee Meeting for help providing a place for victims to go in the county.

"Shelter is needed," said Bourus. "Shelter is the ultimate safe house."

The county used to have two shelters--one shut its doors in 2012, and the other closed in 2013.

"It was just like a black hole opened up in the county and we haven't been able to close it," she said, after the meeting.

Bourus is asking for help to fund a shelter with at least 24 beds. The shelter in Georgetown County has 12.

She says the need is greater in Horry County--more than 60 percent of the Georgetown clients now are from Horry County. That means some people have been driving at least an hour to get help from the shelter.

"Kids have to change their schools, [and] moms have to move jobs, which is the worst thing that can happen," she said.

Creating a new shelter wouldn't be cheap though. Bourus said she needs anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million to get a shelter started.

She said she'd probably need an additional $375,000 each year just to keep the doors open.

Despite any current roadblocks, Horry County Councilman Al Allen says he'd like to see a shelter built. He said Council should take a look at options, but suggested a public-private funding option.

"Sadly to say, we lead the state and our state leads the nation on criminal domestic violence and that has got to change," said Allen.

Bourus said state grants and outside funding would have to be involved. She said the time to act is now.

"I'm here, sending out the cry that we need help, and I think that Horry County will respond. We will have shelter and we will have safety for these victims [because] it's the right thing to do," she said.

Family Justice Center leaders will go before Council in the next couple of months to talk about whether a shelter in Horry County can become a reality.

The Violence Policy Center says, in 2015, South Carolina ranked fifth in the nation for the number of women killed by men.

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