A Bluffton shelter for homeless, pregnant teenagers has closed after struggling the past two years to raise money.
The Room at the Inn of the Lowcountry shut down at the end of January after failing to raise private donations to compensate for declining government support.
The home received about half of the $400,000 it needed to stay open another year after it fell five months behind on its rent, according to Albert Hodges, president of the Room at the Inn of the Carolinas, which operated the home.
The 6,900-square-foot shelter opened in June 2007 on five acres owned by the University of South Carolina Beaufort off S.C. 46 near Pritchardville.
It had an average annual budget of $350,000 and was supported mostly by members of the local Knights of Columbus, churches and civic groups, which provided leadership and hundreds of hours of volunteer service, according to Hodges said.
The shelter also received money through government grants and the S.C. Department of Social Services.
Donations, however, were not sufficient to cover day-to-day operations, Hodges said. The home depleted its savings, and in some years, had to take out a loan to keep the doors open.
"We cut costs, and USCB was very patient and did what they could to help make the program succeed, including reducing our rent," he said. "But every time we zigged, something zagged, whether it was the economy going bad the year after we opened or the state changing its funding, leading to a decline in government support."
A total of 11 mothers and children were staying at the shelter before it closed. They either moved out on their own, reunited with their families or were placed in other group homes.
Room at the Inn provided counseling, classes on childbirth, parenting and life skills, transportation, meals, and shelter for women under 21 who were expecting and had nowhere else to go.
The program also worked to help the mothers find permanent housing and jobs.
"We kept the doors open as long as we could and greatly appreciate generous volunteers and donors in Bluffton and Hilton Head who sacrificed and gave their time and money to make positive changes in the lives of the women and children we served," Hodges said. "We will always be grateful to them for those five and a half years."
Among those volunteers was Bluffton resident and Knights of Columbus member Harry Walker.
"It's very sad because these guys worked so hard to make a go of it," Walker said. "We do not believe in abortion, and this home was so important to us because these girls who came here chose to keep their babies. .... It breaks our heart that we no longer have a place to put them in Bluffton."
While Room at the Inn of the Carolinas does not anticipate reopening a home in the area soon, Hodges said Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston plans to open homes for pregnant women across the state in the next few years. Attempts Wednesday to reach a Catholic Charities representative were unsuccessful.
"There is a big need in South Carolina for programs like this," Hodges said.