Family and friends are preparing to gather this week to enjoy a festive, loving time with one another. Local non-profit, Palmetto Place, is also preparing, but they are opening their three homes to house homeless youths during the holiday season.

According to Courtney Tidwell, Palmetto Place Community Outreach Coordinator, nearly 2,400 youth in South Carolina were identified as homeless through the school system over the past year.

“Typically, we get referrals from school social workers, but they also come from other community members such as churches or self-referrals through our website, but usually, our average age that we serve is about 17, and these youths are homeless for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes, their families are homeless themselves, and although their families would love to keep them with them, there is no place for everyone to go and be safely sheltered together’, said Tidwell.

Cementing their phrase ‘we are a home built on hope,’ the organization’s residential homes have provided support services for more than 7,500 children over the last 40 years. In 2012, they created South Carolina’s first emergency and transitional housing program for non-systems youth experiencing homelessness.

“People really don’t realize how huge of a problem homelessness is here in the Midlands; it really is in everyone’s back yard,” Tidwell said. “Most teens are often ashamed to share that they need help.”

Knowing how to identify if a teen is homeless can be a challenge. One key sign, according to Tidwell, is if they are ‘couch surfing.' Often homeless youth will repeatedly spend the night with friends to secure a safe place to sleep. Another additional key sign is if they are carrying items of value in their backpack. This may be an indicator that they may not have a safe place to store valuable personal items.

The Oaks, Samantha’s House, and Polly’s Place are the three homes Palmetto Place uses to provide emergency-to-temporary housing to youths. A recent generous donation of two duplexes was given to the organization by an anonymous donor; however, more help is needed to maintain the houses.

Donations are accepted year-round; however, here is a list of specific items that are needed now heading into the holidays.

• Paper Towels

• Disinfectant Sprays and Wipes

• Tissues

• Toilet Tissue

• Hand Sanitizer

• Bathroom Cleaners

• Kitchen Cleaners

• Laundry Detergent

• Dish Detergent

• Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

• Plasticware

• Plastic Cups

• Paper Plates

• Mouthwash

• Lotion

• Disposable Gloves

• Large Plastic Storage Bags

• Towels

• Washcloths

• Body Soap

Visit PalmettoPlace.org to learn more about the organization. Additionally, anyone interested in donating items can schedule a donation drop-off by emailing admin@palmettoplaceshelter.org.

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