Rock Hill's first emergency winter shelter hasn't opened in time to beat the onset of cold weather, but its debut might be only days away.
Supporters originally hoped the warming center would open by the first or second week of December in the basement of the local Salvation Army branch.
Majs. Cedric and Melody McClure, who supervise the Charlotte Avenue chapter, say they are ready. But the wait for final approval from corporate higher-ups has pushed back the timeline.
The Salvation Army's main office in Atlanta must sign off, and organizers say that's a more tedious process than just signing a form. Still, it could be completed by next week.
"The Salvation Army has a big heart," said David LeGrande Jr., immediate past chairman of the agency's board in Rock Hill. "But they are also very guarded on their reputation. It's just a process it has to go through, and that's just the way it is."
Planning for liability, other issues
Paperwork must pass through a number of departments, first at an office in Charlotte and then at the main headquarters in Atlanta, said Kevin Tomson-Hooper, the Salvation Army's director of social services for the Southern region.
Supervisors in property management, grants and contracts and, of course, legal review are required to check that proper wording is in place. Tomson-Hooper said the final OK could come by the middle of next week.
"We want to make sure what we're doing is being done right," he said. "When you're dealing with any national organization, there are just a lot of considerations you've got to put into place."
Among the biggest considerations is liability. The plan must include policies addressing potential mishaps such as falls and trips, as well as other health concerns that may take place at a site.
The center, which could hold up to 48 people, will open on nights when forecasts call for below-freezing temperatures. It is viewed as a temporary solution while the search continues for a permanent shelter with more space.
Last month, York County leaders approved up to $23,000 to help pay for security and other costs. Soon after, the city of Rock Hill sent maintenance crews to install bathrooms.
Because elected officials committed to helping the project several weeks ago, the public may have been left with the impression that the center was set to open. Their commitment was only a beginning point, said Maj. Melody McClure.
"The sad thing is, all these announcements were made when there was nothing to be done," she said. "We're doing everything we can."
The predicament is much like the larger quest for a permanent shelter in Rock Hill; plenty of people are behind it, but the pace of progress is slower than anyone wants.
In the warming center's case, McClure said that the center would welcome its first overnight guests "as soon as we have permission to open the doors."