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Photo/Angela Reinhardt Clients of the Refuge in Jesus homeless shelter say they would be out in the cold if the shelter closed. The day after they were required to vacate the space on Southeast Street they proudly displayed a sign that read “Honk if you Love the Homeless,” and said they would not leave without more action from the landlord.

Homeless refuse to leave Jasper shelter: “We don’t have anywhere to go”

Refuge in Jesus homeless shelter clients were still living in the downtown Jasper facility the day after a shelter director said they would leave to abide by a court order. Tenants refuse to leave because they believe they have a right to stay until at least the end of the month, and have no other housing options.

            “It’s cold at night and we don’t have anywhere to go,” said Tia Howard, who has been a resident at the shelter for nine months along with her disabled husband David. “Where are we supposed to go? There’s nowhere to live we can afford. If it closes, we’d be on the street.”

            A young woman who was at the shelter that afternoon, March 16, sleeps in a car in front of the building. There were a few young children there as well. In all, Tia said there are 16 tenants. She called shelter founder Amy Ghorley an “angel sent from God.” 

            Tia assists the shelter’s house manager with day-to-day duties and said they would not follow March 15 deadline. She argues that the shelter’s lease has been paid through the end of the month, and the landlord will have to file an eviction notice to make them leave.  Their refusal is in stark contrast to what Refuge in Jesus board member Steven Lovell said only days prior to the March 15 deadline, which was that tenants would vacate by that date. He said in an article in this week’s Progress they would leave as it was a court order and they had no choice.

Tia and other shelter tenants are hopeful Refuge in Jesus can work out issues at a proposed new location at 735 Martin Road. The shelter has paid rent for a few months at that location and admitted to beginning work there prior to building and septic permits being issued.

            They hit road blocks with the septic system, fire codes, and other ordinance issues. On March 10, Pickens Superior Court issued an emergency order to prevent the shelter from occupying or working on the Martin Road building. The fire marshal issued a stop work order in early March. Printed copies of both are posted on the front door of the building. If anyone involved with the shelter violates these orders they can be removed from the property.

Pickens County Commission Chair Kris Stancil said in an article in this week’s paper that based on statements Lovell had previously made to the fire marshal and other comments from shelter supporters online, they worried shelter leaders would not stop work and move to the new location regardless.

A Pickens Board of Public Health meeting regarding the septic system was held on Tuesday, March 14, where Lovell was in attendance. Public health officials say the current system is old and inadequate to accommodate 16 full-time residents, and must be replaced.

Refuge in Jesus, a 501(c)3 opened in 2021. Soon after shelter leaders found themselves at the center of a battle with the city of Jasper, which eventually deemed the building unsuitable for occupation because they said it is not up to fire codes.


  1. Betty Sargent Betty Sargent March 17, 2023

    I live in Cherokee county. we moved in last year. the house was not grounded. Give these people a break

  2. Betty Gray Betty Gray March 30, 2023

    I have only one thing to say. ( STEP OUT OF YOUR LIFE STYLE AND THINK HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU WAS HOME LESS AND NO WHERE TO GO? ) if you believe in JESUS you already know it’s wrong. As a community people need to help this who can’t help themselves and be on their knees thanking God our Father is not them. The Bible teaches judge not lest you be judged. people tend to look at them as trash or lazy or whatever, but actually it could be you in their shoes. WE ARE TO LOVE EVERYONE NOT JUST THE ONES WE CHOSE. JESUS LOVED ALL OF US SO MUCH HE WAS BEATEN AND ABUSED AND DIED FOR ALL OF US EVEN THE HOMELESS. THEY HAVE FEELINGS LIKE ALL OF US SO. I PRAY ALL THE TIME FOR THE ONES LESS FORUNATE THEN I AM. MAY GOD SEND HELP TO AND CHANGE HEARTS OF THEM THAT JUST DON’T SEEM TO CARE.

  3. Amy Parkman Amy Parkman April 3, 2023

    What about a Go-Fund-Me page to pay for a new septic system?? I believe the people of this community would be happy to donate to such a cause. The building will not open until the septic system is replaced so it can accommodate 16 people.

  4. Margaret Burgess Margaret Burgess April 3, 2023

    AMEN!!! No matter what the circumstances to evict were the Judge, Sheriff & Mayor all had a moral duty to at least alert other community leaders, churches & outreach organizations that these mostly elderly handicap citizens were being evicted & could use volunteers. The Court could’ve assigned those doing community service to help move things for the physically handicap. It would have mitigated some of the unnecessary hardship and loss of their meager belongings. What I witnessed was horrible. The Mayor says there will be no homeless shelter in Jasper. As the American economy is crashing there will be many to find themselves in this same predicament. The City of Jasper & Pickens County could’ve helped these people if they had wanted to. I hope everyone remembers this is the Holiest week of the year between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This is how our fellow human beings are treated. Tragic.

    • Jane doe Jane doe April 8, 2023

      The law is the law, are any of you that are on here posting how bad it is offering these people a place to stay?

  5. Denise Essig Denise Essig April 4, 2023

    What I cannot wrap my head around is this: Why can the City/County not step up in this matter and instead of showing all the reasons this cannot work.. put in the needed efforts and plans to make it work? This is a local issue. I have seen myself MANY many more homeless walking etc since the pandemic right here in my home town. And I’d never seen it before. I am almost 36 years old and I’ve lived almost my entire life right here in Pickens. It’s not something we can ignore long enough and it will just *poof* disappear. Why can we not come together as a community to address this issue in the correct way instead of letting a good hearted couple try and figure this out with limited resources and many opposing? I don’t know much about the leadership here in Pickens I can admit that, but the quote I heard that came from our mayor Steve Lawrence that he wont have a homeless shelter here in Pickens County… ok so what is the actual solution after that sir? With all due respect I ask this. Can some kind of temporary housing where services are offered that could help those in need and wanting genuinely to get out of this type of funk not be a reality? I’m all for drug testing, work programs where transportation could be provided if needed for a temporary time, and even some kind of proof that they were a resident of Pickens need be. But to legit toss people with no place to go on the street, in the rain at that.. All I can say is my heart is saddened and I will continue to pray for the situation and that includes the people who no longer have a place to stay that may not have been perfect.. but I didn’t see any reports of officials putting in labor or money to help that. And I’ll also be praying for every official who is able to make any kind of decision regarding addressing this issue in a positive and proactive way.

    I also keep seeing comments about the business owners of the building. And yes, I can have some level of understanding there although they had already taken some action to get into another location that apparently has been shot down instead of people coming together to make it a solution.. if you would.. remember this all started with one of those business owners. The owners of the laundry mat. Who had homeless cold individuals with no where to turn who walked into the business for a place to find rest and shelter. Those owners opened their hearts and tried to do the right thing to the best of their own abilities. There is absolutely no reason that this cannot end with some form of a solution instead of signs taped onto doors stating why not. The better way to address this is by coming together to say how and taking action. We have residents with the heart, I’ve seen it. It IS possible. If you look into Gods Living Word, it is perfectly clear how those of us who are followers of Christ should address those in need. I pray that this does have an ending where we are obedient as a community and we don’t just see the way our country has been going and decide that it’s ok to turn our heads. I pray that hearts are touched, & scales will fall from eyes in Pickens County in Jesus name. 🤍

  6. Bonnie Witt Bonnie Witt April 8, 2023

    Do unto others as you would want them to do to you! We need to help educate people how to find resources of the help they require! Its not an easy task even when you have help! Kindness goes a long way & leaves a good impression !

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