‘Homeless shelter’ closed by authorities for code violations

‘Homeless shelter’ closed by authorities for code violations

DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - Darlington police and officials forced a building to close its doors after violating building codes and never receiving a permit.

The structure was unoccupied for nearly 20 years until officers noticed activity going on around Law and Harper streets at a building a group is calling a homeless shelter.

City officials said the problem is no one at the police department or on the city council even knew the building was open, or what it was being used for.

The group told police it was a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen and a church, leaving law enforcement without a clear answer as there was no advertisement anywhere.

"We welcome the homeless shelter into the city because it is a needed thing, but the thing is you have rules and regulations you have to follow to make sure everyone is safe," said Lt. Kim Nelson, public information officer for the Darlington Police Department. "And that's all we are trying to do is make sure everyone is safe."

Kim Bryant, director of Kid Stop for almost 30 years, operates her business right next door to the building. She said she has filed police reports since homeless people were occupying the space.

Bryant said the first incident happened when a staff member forgot her phone and came back after hours.

"She noticed a man looking inside our window, so of course she didn't stop," Bryant said. "She circled back around and then saw him going into the homeless shelter."

Bryant added that was not the only incident. On another occasion, a man was standing on her property while children were playing on the playground. She he had his camera turned at an angle that he could take a picture or a video. That led to staff bringing the kids inside and calling police.

Officials with the DPD said their job in all of this is to make sure the city is safe. Ever since they noticed activity at the building more than a month ago, officers have asked for the proper steps to be taken, but it has yet to be done.

"Let's make things safe," Nelson said. "We want to work with you, but there are rules and regulations you have to follow. It's just like they are ignoring what they need to do and that can't happen because of the safety issue."

At a regular city council meeting on Tuesday evening, Bryant expressed her concern for the safety of the kids and said hundreds of people came and supported her.

Her main goal is to not have a homeless shelter be near her location. She said she feels a lot of empathy for those who need a helping hand, but they need to go about receiving that assistance the right way.

"When we go to church, we don't spend the night there or hang around there, and that is what we saw going on," Bryant said.

The shelter will remain shut down until it is up to code and the purpose of the building is clearly given to the city. The city judge ruled no one is allowed inside of it unless it's an architect or a contractor.

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