Zoning laws put makeshift homeless shelter in jeopardy - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Zoning laws put makeshift homeless shelter in jeopardy

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SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

A Sumter man's makeshift homeless shelter is in jeopardy of being shut down. It's located in a residential area off Laverne Street, but according to the county, it doesn't meet zoning requirements.

The owner, Jeffery Yarborough, says the county allowed them to be there for years without issue, but then something changed. 

When a family friend donated a home to Yarborough, he says it was the boost he needed to get his life on track.

"One of the stipulations was to be drug-free," said Yarborough. "Once I was able to see, I could shake the demon, I thought If I can fight this and change, others can too."

That's when he and his mother decided to open their home to the homeless. He says at the time, the Sumter City-County Planning Department was fine with the idea.

"We were told 7 years ago if we were not making a profit, and this is not a boarding house then this was not an issue to them," said Yarborough.

Yarborough says his shelter, Lighthouse of Hope, has given dozens of people a second chance over the years.

However, Yarborough received a letter from the planning department.

"I have 20 days to vacate the property and close the doors," said Yarborough.

Yarborough says the decision has broken his heart.

The letter, dated Jan. 18, states neighbor complaints led to an inspection of the property. The zoning inspector says the property is being used as a "group dwelling" and cannot operate in a residential single family zoning district. Therefore, it must shut down.

David is one of the five men who live here. He says Lighthouse of Hope is helping him become independent.

"I got work through here," said David. "Finished school, got my license back."

Neighbor Dana Hatfield says she's seen how the shelter has helped those in need.

"It makes no sense for these people coming to move them when they came here," said Hatfield. "They've never caused any trouble."

But Yarborough's next door neighbors disagree. Virginia and Steven Morris say the shelter lacks oversight and proper rehabilitation.

"Most of the guys there are coming straight out of jail; pretty much cut loose in the neighborhood," said Morris.

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