Clean of Heart must move to new site by spring

COLUMBIA—A major fundraising effort is underway to help Clean of Heart, which must relocate its outreach that provides fresh clothes and hope to Columbia’s homeless.

The Catholic Charities program has to move into facilities on Pickens Street by the spring of 2016. The city of Columbia took over the ministry’s current site on Laurel Street and will tear it down to make way for office buildings, said Cathy Hood-Pittenger, client advocate at Clean of Heart. They have leased the space from the United Way since 2011.

The popular ministry provides laundry services and hot showers for homeless men and women in downtown Columbia, and serves about 70 clients a week. About 800 people have made at least one visit there since the program started.

Hood-Pittenger said Clean of Heart will move to vacant space on the first floor of the Catholic Charities office building at 1427 Pickens St. Plans have already been approved by the diocesan building and renovation committee.

Weathers Contracting of West Columbia, who built the first Clean of Heart site, will handle the renovations, expected to cost around $80,000.

Work on the new facility is expected to begin in early January.

Hood-Pittenger said Catholic Charities is currently raising money through donations from the community and so far has about $5,000. A letter about the project went out in bulletins in area churches back in September and some donations have already come in, she said, although fundraising likely was slowed by the floods that caused heavy damage around much of the Midlands in early October.

The goal is to have enough money by spring to pay for the remodeling so that Clean of Heart can move in by early April.

Plans call for the service’s three washers and dryers and other equipment to be moved, and new showers built to accommodate clients.

“The new place will be almost an exact duplicate of what we have now,” Hood-Pittenger said. “We’re going to try for as little interruption as possible in our services. This ministry has been such a pleasure and a blessing to so many and we want that to continue.”

The new site is not as centrally located as the current one, and there may be a slight inconvenience to some clients in the beginning, she said.

However, many homeless men and women have already been visiting a clothes closet set up at the Pickens Street building, and Hood-Pittenger expects Clean of Heart clients to eventually make the transition to the new location without a problem.