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If We Had a Magic Wand...

We recently asked the Hopeful Horizons team to answer this question:

If you had a magic wand, how would you use it at Hopeful Horizons?

These answers say a lot about what’s happening in human services in the Lowcountry and speak to the critical needs of victims/survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. We’ve chosen a few wishes to share with you.

The overwhelming critical need:

1. Increase affordable housing options

It’s no surprise that Beaufort County and the surrounding counties have very limited affordable housing. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of properties that were more affordable increase their rents. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report shows that Beaufort County typically has one of the highest fair market rents in the state. According to their 2022 report, fair market rent for a two bedroom was $1,253, an increase of more than 22% from 2020. Additionally, due to demand in the area, many rentals are commanding prices well above fair market rates. In order to be able to afford a two-bedroom unit in Beaufort County, an individual must make at least $24.10 an hour, working 40 hours per week, or work 133 hours per week for the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Even though Hopeful Horizons’ transitional housing program has expanded significantly over the past two years, we continue to struggle to help survivors find affordable housing. We would love to have a magic wand to create more safe, affordable housing options for survivors - and the community at large. Of course, the other key to this issue is the availability of living wage employment. Hopeful Horizons is committed to being at the table with Beaufort County and other community partners to be a voice for victims and survivors and find solutions.

Next on the list…

2. Transportation

Transportation goes hand in hand with affordable housing – and employment. Without one, the need for the other grows. Without either, well, that’s what we’re facing in Beaufort County and the surrounding counties, particularly with so many employees traveling a distance to get to their jobs. Transportation has been at the top of the list of identified needs among human service professionals in the area for over 20 years and I’m not sure that we’re any closer to a solution. The geography of the Lowcountry is beautiful, but all the water also makes transportation even more of a challenge. Additionally, the area is lacking the population density to support a robust public transit system. Some employers and human service organizations have come up with creative solutions to try to address the transportation issue, but it’s still not enough. Hopeful Horizons is able to provide some limited transportation primarily for residents of our domestic violence shelter, but that’s also not enough.

Lack of reliable transportation not only limits access to housing and employment, but it can also create a barrier to receiving services like counseling/therapy with Hopeful Horizons and many other things that families desperately need to do – like grocery shopping, attending medical appointments, going to court hearings, etc. Fortunately, Hopeful Horizons can provide counseling/therapy via tele-health, which helps remove the transportation barrier for some individuals and families. We’re not sure what the solution is, but that’s why we need the magic wand.

3. Help more kids

What does it mean when a child is acting out sexually in an inappropriate way? The sexual behaviors of children usually take place when a child feels anxious or angry, is reacting to a traumatic experience, is overly curious after seeing sexual materials, is seeking attention, is trying to imitate others, or is merely trying to calm him or herself.

According to the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth, “Sometimes…the sexual behaviors of children are more than a result of harmless curiosity. At times the sexual behavior of children becomes harmful to themselves and to other children. A child displaying the sexual behavior as well as any other children who might have been witness to it, or who might have been involved, may be harmed by such behavior,” said the NCSBY.

Research shows that certain therapeutic models are effective in changing these behaviors and treating the trauma early before it has a life-long impact. Hopeful Horizons’ sees the need for this treatment option in our community and is making plans to respond to this need. Treatme