The mission of South Carolina STRONG is to reverse the debilitating effects of generational poverty, teach non-violence, rehabilitate criminals and substance abusers, and move people into economic self-sufficiency through a minimum two year residential education program serving South Carolina residents at no cost to them.
SC STRONG is a residential program for ex-offenders, substance abusers and the homeless, located in the historic officer-housing district at the Navy Yard in North Charleston. SC STRONG residents have renovated three properties at the Navy Yard including the former Vice Admiral’s residence. The housing can accommodate 60 residents. The first SC SC STRONG training school, Light Construction, developed out of the renovation work that was completed and now is a viable social enterprise. SC STRONG offers intense intervention in a structured environment and works with a population unable to succeed in short-term settings, and thus addresses a need not presently being met. Residents participate in academic activities and those without a high school diploma attend a literacy program to obtain a GED (in collaboration with Trident Literacy). Residents learn at least three marketable job skills in five SC STRONG developed training school enterprises (construction, catering, landscaping, furniture restoration, and moving) that generate income to help cover organization expenses.
SC STRONG uses a system based on principles published in academic literature on effective community re-entry programs, and is modeled after the highly acclaimed 43-year old Delancey Street Foundation. Delancey Street is considered one of the nation’s leading self-help residential education centers for ex-convicts and former substance abusers. In 2002, South Carolina officials asked the Delancey Street Foundation to work with a group of people, "Friends of Delancey Street-South Carolina" (which included business leaders, interested legislators, members of the judiciary, as well as representatives from the Department of Corrections, Public Defender offices, law enforcement agencies, health/drug/alcohol programs, and other community-based organizations), to explore the possibility of creating a Delancey Street model. In May 2006, the replication program, South Carolina STRONG, a non-profit corporation, opened its' doors.
Residents are selected through various means. Some come as an alternative to incarceration through the cooperation of local judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Some come directly after being released from prison as their chosen means for re-entry. Some come as “walk-ins”, referred by social service agencies, homeless shelters, or family members. In every case, admission is voluntary (even those coming as an alternative sentence must ask to be admitted).
Articles about SC STRONG have appeared in various media including the Post and Courier, Charleston Magazine, and Charleston Regional Business Journal. SC STRONG received the Angel Award from the South Carolina Secretary of State on November 16, 2011, as one of the top 10 non-profits (out of 8,000) in South Carolina. The award is given based on the percentage of donations actually spent on their causes.
Residents are also encouraged to help others in the community. Our residents offer volunteer services to help organizations such as Hursey Elementary School Garden Classroom, Friends of the Library, Lowcountry Orphan Relief, Michaux Water Conservancy, City of North Charleston, Trident Literacy, Crisis Ministries, Star Gospel Mission, Parent’s Anonymous, Lowcountry Local First, Union Heights Community Center, Seacoast Community Church Clinic, and Lowcountry Foodbank.
Finally, external evaluators assessed SC STRONG for the period May 2006 – May 2014 and found that participants in the program experienced significant improvement in educational, employment, job skill, and recidivism outcomes.