Residents raise alarm and petition against halfway house

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By Andy Ann

On Tuesday, Jan. 10 during the Colleton County Council meeting, Lisa Langdale and several other concerned citizens gave a presentation regarding Shield Ministries and its proposed plan to open a men’s transition house on Barracada Road. Every seat was filled and was standing room only with citizens flowing out into the hallway.

Those that spoke against the facility wanted to make councilmen aware of the shelter that would house men with a variety of criminal offenses, including sexual crimes. The goal was to provide enough information about the situation to convince them to block the organization from moving forward with the project.

According to Langdale, Shield is a program for males released from prison with criminal records, including those charged with sexual crimes and pedophilia. She presented information from Shield’s annual report in 2021 that indicated 70% of the men housed in the Charleston facility were sexual offenders and over the last five years the percentages ranged between 70-84%.

Information was provided about several of the ministries’ board members. One of the founders, Pastor David Truluck is a registered pedophile. Another associate of the ministry, Tim Terry, carries a criminal charge of voluntary manslaughter. (Terry is the founder of “Fresh Start Vision”. Shield Ministries and Fresh Start Vision have merged into one entity.) Langdale also shared that several other board members carry various charges such as DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and child pornography.

Langdale also presented evidence of Shield’s website and Facebook pages that have been changed three times since the project in Walterboro first came to light. The anticipated number of inmates has changed, originally at 108 now down to approximately 50.

Langdale spoke of the possible negative impact the housing project could have on the city, county, and community at large. She shared concerns that the project could have on local resources such as police, hospitals, probation officers, and property values. Additionally, she questioned the harm the project may impose on the economic development of the city and county.

The proposed site for the men’s house is situated in the middle of a highly populated residential area with women, children, and families. There are also several churches and schools that are a short distance from the proposed location.

According to Langdale, Shield has installed new septic, well, and sprinkler systems. According to Langdale, officials from the county level have verified that required permits for some of the improvements to the property have not been requested or obtained.

Landale said she is there to provide awareness to the council and request that the council makes a statement regarding the proposed facility potentially coming to Colleton County. She stated, “If Shield helps a thousand men, but one child is hurt that will never recover, then it’s not worth the risk.”

Langdale provided the council with statistical information regarding the organization’s financial status, reported revenue, and salary data as provided on Shield Ministries’ website within their listed annual reports. Information was also provided about state-wide recidivism (tendencies to re-offend) rates for those with sexual crimes in South Carolina along with information about the applicants referred and accepted into the program.

Later during public comments, Ashley Pennington, former chief public defender for Berkeley in Charleston County spoke on behalf of Shield Ministries. He said that he volunteers for the ministry on Friday evenings, without compensation, providing spiritual mentoring to the men in the program in Charleston. He indicated that he is knowledgeable about the program and advised the council to learn more about the organization and its program before considering taking any action against the project.

Jamie Jordan, chairman of the board of directors for Shield Ministries, also spoke. He stated, “I will say that it’s perfectly understandable for a community to ask good and hard questions about any kind of rehabilitative program.” He also stated, “I will say that you can rest assured that this is not a program that relies on government grants. It will not be a tax burden to the community. It does rely on men who have to go through the exhaustive vetting process they have to apply before they are accepted and reviewed.”

Jordan said the men themselves will be randomly drug tested, have their phones monitored, have curfews, and be required to attend active counseling by professional counselors. Those professional counselors will also require polygraph testing. He also stated that he is working with Dr. William Burke, an expert in the Lowcountry through research that addresses sex offenses in South Carolina.

Jordan suggested that the housing program and those involved will be assets to the community and good citizens. He clarified that the program is not a halfway house and that the men residing there would not have a lot of freedom. He encouraged the council to convene a hearing if necessary and contact him or the ministry. He said they would be happy to come to a public forum to provide specific information about the ministry and the proposed project for Walterboro.

Joanne Goodhope presented the council with over 1,500 signatures for a petition against the Barracada Road project.

Several councilmen also remarked how they have listened to the people’s concerns. The council also verified that they had not received any applications or notifications from Shield Ministries nor anyone that is affiliated with them regarding the proposed men’s transitional house.

Councilman Steven D. Mardaugh mentioned he has grave concerns about the program, treatment efficacy and clinical competence, the boundary matrix not maintaining the property boundary, and more.

The council is not in a position to make any decisions about the organization and project of concern based on the opinion that is for or against it. The council will need to receive an application or permit request related to that specific project from Shield Ministries, once that step is taken, they will need to address the concerning issues at that time should they arise. No actionable steps were taken at the time of the meeting regarding the housing on Barracada Road.

For more information about Shield Ministries visit www.shieldministries.org, email david.truluck@shieldministries.org, or call 843-209-7941.

Concerned citizens have created an informational Facebook group page to spread awareness. This page is called STOP Pedifiles Housing on Barracada Road. (*Note: Misspelling of pedophiles is intentional, so Facebook algorithms do not block the page.)

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