By Amanda Herndon and Jenny Neuroth
Lowcountry Shelter of Hope in Walterboro has been trying to help homeless individuals in the county, especially during these very cold nights. So, when shelter volunteer Jenny Neuroth was called Friday, Jan. 8 around 8:30 pm. about a young man hanging around the Enmark station and Starbucks with no place to go, she and her husband Robert sprang into action.
Even though In His Name-Colleton volunteers had been informed by county officials that due to a lack of a $75,000 sprinkler system to battle in-door fires they could not officially open, the volunteers decided to open a warming ministry…just a place for the homeless to take a hot shower and get warm and have a hot meal.
“I received a call from a friend asking If we had the warming ministry open, but I told her we did not because we had no one needing it. She said someone had posted on Facebook that there was a young man sitting outside the gas station and asking if someone could take him to the shelter. I reported this to my husband, Robert Neuroth, since he is the coordinator for the warming ministry. We decided to ride over and try to find him to see what the need was,” said Neuroth. “We observed him for a while, watching his behavior inside the station, and deciding what we needed to do. When he exited the station, my husband made contact with him and offered him a bag full of food, a blanket and some toiletries. He was eager to receive the help and told us he was staying under a bush,” she said.
Robert Neuroth had planned on having the warming ministry open the next night as temperatures were dropping to 35 degrees, so he told the young man to meet them there the next evening, and they would take him somewhere warm for the night. He seemed happy about going with them, but they really didn’t expect to see him again.
The next night the Neuroths found him waiting.
Robert approached him and asked, “Hey man you remember me?” He responded with an eager “Yes!” and said he wanted to go with them to the warming shelter.
On the way to the warming ministry the boy said his name was “Diamond’’, but he clearly hesitated when saying his name. The Neuroths took him in and fed him some hot chicken and dumplings and fresh cupcakes thankfully donated by Katie’s Cupcake Cottage. Overnight volunteers Reverend Mychal Wright and Mrs. Cathy Hiers took care of him through the night.
“Our volunteers each took turns asking him questions trying to piece together his identity since he was displaying symptoms of schizophrenia and giving us multiple random stories, but he was very polite and sweet to us. The shelter’s founder, Stacy See, came in the next morning and cooked him a hot breakfast, but we knew he was not mentally stable, and we could not possibly return him to living under a bush. As most of the public already knows, we cannot house anyone right now until we install a sprinkler system inside of our shelter building. So we improvised and pitched a tent and supplied his basic needs, all provided by Hiers’s generous heart. We took him shopping for clothes through our donation department, and he took a warm shower,” said Neuroth.
Once Diamond was set up, Robert Neuroth took him back across town to get any belongings he may have left behind the night before. But his heart sank when he realized that the young man truly had nothing but a bush that he had been living under and the few items he had been given the night before by the volunteers.
Monday night after the ministry’s regular community meeting, Robert sat down with Diamond again to try and figure out who he was, where he was from and how he came to be in this situation. Nothing he said made sense… he said his mother was dead, and he couldn’t give us any names. He did eventually say he had a 9-year-old brother named James, and he also gave a last name.
“Every time we asked where he was from, he would tell us something different,” said Neuroth. I couldn’t stop thinking about this, and so Tuesday morning I started searching the name that he had given us online but found nothing. Then I tried searching the name he had given us for a brother, and by the grace of God I found someone who turned out to be a cousin! The cousin who wanted to see a picture to verify that Diamond was a relative. IAfter seeing a picture, she instantly verified that it was her cousin. He was in fact missing and had suffered some sort of mental episode. His name was not Diamond or James, nor did he have a brother named James, but he did have a brother, mother, cousins, an aunt, and he was the father of two young children. The family made arrangements to come get him that Saturday Jan. 16,” Neuroth added.
The 29 year-old young man had been from Macon, Ga. but working a construction job in Savannah. His mental health continued to dramatically decline, so he was fired. He just walked away. He had no money, no belongings, and no ID. No one had seen him since Jan. 6, 2020.
“My heart felt full. It had been a very trying week for Amanda Herndon, the assistant director, and myself and this was the confirmation we needed that we are in fact making a difference in this community! Later that night I received another call from Diamond’s tearful mother who was so thankful we found her son and he was alright. Then on Wednesday Jan. 13, his mother, brother and cousin came to see him,” Neuroth said.
But what was expected to be a joyful reunion turned south as Diamond wanted nothing to do with his family. “This was so confusing and saddening; however, I have since been working closely with some extended family who have enlightened me on years of abuse and neglect our new friend has endured. We are not sure if his mental state is the cause of the abuse or a result of abuse, but we are sure he ran from that life and wants nothing to do with it,” added Neuroth.
Now the shelter team is working to get him the help he needs, a mental evaluation, disability, and placement in a group home type environment. While they work to meet his physical needs, he has been voluntarily attending church with the Neuroth family who are trying to meet his spiritual needs as well. “It has been a pure blessing to be able to help someone like Diamond. He has been very well mannered and humble from the moment we met him!” Neuroth added.
“What I would like to say to Colleton County is open your eyes and see these people. They are here and they need us; they need to be seen. It’s just like Denver Moore, homeless man turned inspiring author and speaker, said, ‘The truth about it is, whether we are rich or poor or something in between, this earth ain’t no final resting place. So in a way, we is all homeless--just working our way toward home.’”
For more information about the shelter or to make a donation, contact In His Name-Colleton at 843-217-5661. Their motto is: “Being Prepared to Help Others when the Need Arises”.