Our Mission is to provide emergency shelter in a stable living environment for homeless children and their parents and help our residents build life skills needed to regain independence. It is our vision to be the most supportive emergency shelter in the Midlands for homeless families. By strengthening the family, we strive for 100% of active program participants to move to a life of independence.
Established in 1979, Family Shelter is the only agency in the Midlands that provides emergency shelter services to homeless children and their families. Before the Family Shelter's establishment, the only options for homeless families looking for emergency shelter were to separate or remain as a unit living on the street, in a car, or with a family member. Today, the Family Shelter works with homeless families to give them another option in their time of crisis.
Family Shelter began in 1979 as a part of the Providence Home, a shelter for homeless men and women. As it became evident that more and more families were finding themselves displaced and needing emergency shelter, Family Shelter was formed to allow families to remain together while parents working towards regaining stability in their lives. In 1981, Family Shelter separated from Providence Home and became a United Way agency.
The current one and a half acre location of Family Shelter was purchased in 1983 and occupied in 1984. The original two story brick house on the historic property is known as the Dreher Home to older residents of Columbia, but today it is known as Gerry’s House, in honor of Sister Gerry Mengoldt, one of the nuns who founded Family Shelter. In 1985, the campus expanded when Fort Jackson donated an army barracks unit which was renovated to house four families, administrative offices, and space for group sessions and educational programming. In 1988, another barracks was acquired and renovated into a dormitory housing eight families and is now called Bill’s House, in honor of Bill Ballew, A third barracks was acquired for use as a kitchen, dining hall, and multipurpose building.
In June of 1994, Family Shelter acquired eleven apartment units on the corner of McFadden Street and Waites Road for use as transitional housing. Renovation work began in April of 1995 to bring the apartments up to City Code and to make them ready for shelter residents. One building had to be demolished in 2007 as it was beyond repair. The remaining apartments, which are still in use today, are divided into three buildings which house up to eight families.
During the spring of 1999, Gerry’s House was closed as a dormitory. This was due to the rising cost of operations and maintenance, and budget shortfalls. Much of the plumbing was in various stages of disrepair and would have been cost prohibitive to repair along with other additional needed repairs. Fortunately, the Leadership Columbia, Class of 2006 took on the task of renovating Gerry’s House. The official reopening and “ribbon-cutting” took place on June 8, 2006. Gerry’s House now provides a board room, classroom, children’s room and library, computer lab, and administrative offices.
Not long after the renovation of Gerry’s House, the barracks that had served as the administrative offices was converted to a dormitory and increased the shelter’s capacity to its current level of fifteen families. The dormitory was named Midtown after the USC campus ministry group, Midtown Fellowship who not only renovated the dormitory, but also added a playground and made major improvements to the shelter’s kitchen and dining hall.
As the buildings on our property continue to age, we remain focused on meeting the challenge of making needed repairs and improvements. In the last few years, various churches, companies, and civic groups have helped the shelter replace roofs, upgrade heating and air units, and even paint a new colorful mural in our dining hall. With such strong support from the community, Family Shelter looks forward to expanding operations by acquiring additional property to meet the increasing need for emergency shelter for homeless children and families.