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Domestic violence: Safe house is shuttered, but not forgotten

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

There’s still no indication of who will take over the responsibility of running a safe house in Georgetown County for victims of domestic violence now that CASA is inactive.

However, the Georgetown Housing Authority and the Pawleys Island chapter of Drinking Liberally, a political group, wants the house to be ready for whoever takes it over. The group agreed to take on the project last week after it was pitched by a member, Anne Hartsell, who is a former director of the Housing Authority.

The property that Citizens Against Spouse Abuse used for its safe house is leased out by the Housing Authority and the current director, Chris Woodruff, has said the agency wants to see the property continue to be utilized for that purpose. It’s in need of some renovations and while the house is empty seems the perfect time to carry them out.

The Housing Authority can make general repairs to the property, but not anything specific to the needs of a safe house, so that’s where a volunteer effort comes in.

“When the news came out about CASA, it was so depressing,” Hartsell said. “People worked so hard to get that [safe house] for Georgetown.”

But “after a while, we decided we had to do something. We can’t just be down in the dumps forever,” she explained.

CASA’s safe houses in Georgetown and Horry counties were shut down last month after the nonprofit was accused of mismanaging grant funds. The State Law Enforcement Division launched a probe that led to the arrest of the group’s executive director, JoAnne Patterson.

The Family Justice Center in Georgetown has picked up the slack left by CASA’s collapse and announced last week that it plans to apply for funds that would allow it to open and run a safe house. Other organizations, including My Sister’s House in Charleston, are seeking to do the same, though they would first have to have state approval to receive funds for Georgetown County’s region.

It’s uncertain how long it will take for a decision to come down about who gets the funds.

“We don’t have the answer to any of that,” Hartsell said. “We just feel like we’re certain someone is going to reopen it and we’d like to be ready. If we wait until we know who it’s going to be, it’s that much longer they have to wait to get started up.”

Details about the renovations, including a budget, are still in the works. More details should be available in about a month, Hartsell said. But there’s talk about building an addition, installing new cabinets and flooring, having someone come in to evaluate how the kitchen might be improved, and refurbishing the quarters used by the supervisor who stays overnight at the house.

Routine maintenance work was already scheduled for the house.

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