Grand Strand nonprofit finds a new home in Horry County

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Fyrebird Recovery now has a new home.

The last time WMBF News spoke with Azhane Powell, the nonprofit’s director, she didn’t know where she was going to move to. She just knew she had to move.

In July, Powell received a cease-and-desist letter from the City of Myrtle Beach. The letter claimed the nonprofit wasn’t in the right zoning, and had to immediately close and move because of it.

Powell followed orders but said Myrtle Beach police officers continued to stop by her Broadway Street location. She said the officers claimed they were getting calls for service.

WMBF News requested a copy of those calls but never received them.

Powell said it took a lot of phone calls to finally end up where she is now.

“Finding the space was one of the biggest challenges we’ve had. We got a lot of ‘no’s,’” she said.

It only took one yes.

That “yes” happened on Highway 17 Bypass South in early August. That’s when Powell and her staff got the keys to Fyrebird’s new home, which is double the space of their old location.

When you walk inside, you are immediately greeted by a receptionist and a welcome area. There’s also a food pantry and a supply shelf complete with Narcan, clean needles and contraceptives.

Past the welcome area is a full living room, with stress balls, zen gardens, giant chess and checker sets along with art supplies.

The new amenities and the address aren’t the only changes Powell has made.

“So before it was kind of a come in, kind of a free for all, whatever you needed, we would give you at the door, and kind of lesson learning, not even just the flow of like how we wanted to reach our participants, we decided we want to separate,” she said.

Powell said this means Fyrebird’s community outreach team will now do most of the nonprofit’s supply distribution, meeting people where they are. Fyrebird Recovery now also has an online ordering system for people who routinely need supplies.

“This is no longer the kind of the hub where we give out supplies. Just to kind of separate. I really want to separate the concept that harm reduction is just syringes, because all of it is harm reduction and I think the learning curve of the last place is to really hone in on the mission that we have so it doesn’t get in the way,” said Powell.

Powell said things are looking up, especially since she’s not worried about her zoning, being in the county.

Organizations she works with, however, like Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, were rooting for her to stay in city limits.

“She was in a great location because again if you look at the numbers, you have this strip along the beach, you know Springmaid Pier, all the way, that area, clusters of overdoses keep happening. So that venue was walking distance from where a lot of those folks are,” said John Coffin, Executive Director for Shoreline.

But Horry County has needs too.

As of Aug. 31, Horry County distributed 923 Narcan doses to 636 people so far this year. During the same period last year, 874 doses were given out to 622 people.

In the few days Powell has been open, she said clients are finding her. She hopes to make her spot even more accessible in the future.

“We were literally saying how are we going to get people to come, are we too far? And for people to just come in. Every time we hear that chime on that door, we’re like oh my god, who is it? And it’s exciting,” said Powell.

In the coming months, Powell wants to partner more with Horry County public safety. She said without being vocal about who she is and her mission, misconceptions and misinformation can easily spread.

Stay with WMBF News for updates.