Program offers help to hurricane victims

A temporary federal program is offering help to victims of Hurricane Matthew.

Carolina United is an informational resource established with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration after Hurricane Matthew, which impacted many people in South Carolina in October 2016. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is providing monitoring and support of the program.

“After a disaster, it can be confusing and you do not know where to turn. We can help you. Carolina United is a program designed to guide members of the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew to local community resources for aid,” stated a brochure on the program.

Crisis counselors are working in 23 counties, including Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell, to answer disaster-related questions. They do not collect identifying information, but ask what someone’s needs are and refer them to the proper resources, according to www.scdmh.org/united.

“We are trying to reach more citizens in Barnwell County,” said Crystal Williams, who spoke during the public comment portion of the March 6 Barnwell City Council meeting. She is the team leader for Barnwell and Bamberg counties.

Williams said they will visit someone’s house and take pictures so they can assess the damage, provide free estimates and direct residents to the proper resources to help with repairs. Some funding could also be available, such as low-interest federal loans for businesses and homes.

Williams and her staff are based at the Polly Best Center, located at 916 Reynolds Road, Barnwell.

The program is expected to operate through the end of the year.

For more information, Barnwell and Bamberg County residents can contact Crystal Williams at (803) 597-6917 or crytlbascdmh@gmail.com. Residents in Allendale and Hampton counties should contact Walter Smith at (864) 327-2206 or waltlalscdmh@gmail.com.