GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States experience some sort of domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Safe Harbor is a non-profit organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence, with hopes to improve those numbers.
Recently, the non-profit announced it’s expanding. A new facility will be constructed as a public-facing entity, with the hopes to provide easier access for those in need.
Greenville County oftentimes has the highest number of reported domestic violence incidents in South Carolina annually, according to Safe Harbor. The organization is working to change that statistic.
“The difference between surrendering and surviving is oftentimes support,” said Michelle Gilbert, Director of Shelter Advocacy, of Safe Harbor.
On Wednesday, Safe Harbor, M. Peters Group, J. Davis Construction, and others, broke ground on a new domestic violence center and affordable housing units.
Dozens of people gathered to attend the ceremony as the golden sled hammers broke large pieces of rock in the old mill.
It was the sound of hope for current and future domestic violence victims too, one day, become survivors.
“This facility will be the first of its kind in South Carolina,” said Danny Varat, CEO, of Safe Harbor. “This building will almost triple our bed capacity and our ability to serve that many more individuals.”
Safe Harbor leaders said there is a growing need for resources as the number of people seeking help continues to climb.
“We are going to transform this building into a place where all of our services and all of our shelter needs will be bigger and better,” said Jennifer Gosnell, M. Peters Group & Board Chair, Safe Harbor.
The former Gordon Street Mill will be transformed into a place of recovery with 56 beds, plus space for counseling and administrative offices inside.
“They will be able to have their own rooms, their own spaces where they can close their door with themselves and their own families when they need space to be able to heal and work on their own mental health,” said Varat.
Right next door, more than 100 affordable housing units are also being built.
“Ten of those units will be reserved for Safe Harbor clients as they transition away from shelter, and they are ready to be on their own,” said Varat.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the groundbreaking came at a crucial time in Greenville County.
“On average we answer about ten domestic violence calls per day,” said Sheriff Hobart Lewis, Greenville County.
“There is hope. There is a future. There is pathway. Safe Harbor provides a tremendous resource to provide that pathway,” said Walt Wilkins, 13th Circuit Solicitor.
Those in attendance gathered inside the mill as the beginning steps of the plan came to fruition. It’s an experience domestic violence survivors, like Tikeeta Wallace, said will hold a special place in her heart.
“To see the new transition and the growth and the opportunities for other women like me, it’s just amazing,” said Wallace.
Greenville Women Giving awards $517,980 to non-profit organizations in the Upstate
She told 7NEWS it’s the first step of making help that much more attainable for those who are now in the position she was once in.
“It saves lives. It gives battered women a chance to rebuild their life; to reach goals that they thought they would never reach before and gives them a chance to come out of the darkness,” said Wallace.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to take a building that once served so many people and turn it into something that will provide the hope and the care that Safe Harbor will,” said Varat.
The new facility is funded by a variety of different sources including a million-dollar donation from the Castellani family. The Earl Foundation, Greenville Women Giving and others also made contributions.
“Another word for groundbreaking is revolutionary and that’s what I feel like this place will be,” said Kelly Castellani.
Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.