Homelessness in Greenville County

Homelessness in Greenville County

Duff Bruce, trustee with the Jolley Foundation, introduced the topic of homelessness in Greenville County for the September 2014 GPP meeting by recognizing the accomplishment of agencies collaborating to relocate “tent city” residents from under the Pete Hollis Bridge to safe, longer term housing and resources.  He noted that Pete Hollis himself was an innovator who went to the best minds in the business for projects to better Greenville County and introduced the panel as a similarly creative and dedicated group of individuals.

Panelists:

  • Reid Lehman, President/CEO of Miracle Hill Ministries (and panel facilitator/coordinator)
  • Rev. Deb Richardson-Moore, Pastor of Triune Mercy Center
  • Deborah McKetty, Executive Director of CommunityWorks
  • Monroe Free, President/CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County

 

Key Points:

  • Tent City – Had a peak of 100 residents by New Year of 2014 resulting from an outpouring of charitable donations to Tent City in response to Greenville News series on homelessness.  Thanks to a coalition of agencies (Miracle Hill, Triune, Salvation Army, United Ministries, Greenville Mental Health), the numbers are down to 7 – 12 residents with all to be relocated by end of September. Agencies made one-on-one contacts with residents to learn what their needs were and connected them with appropriate services and housing.  Contributions from local foundations supported these relocation efforts.
  • Agencies learned that working together is tremendously effective; that with collaboration and a focus on one person at a time, the solutions are less expensive than anticipated; the solution is not a large shelter or group alternative housing but individual housing solutions based on each person’s needs.
  • What looks like redundancy may be needed multiple points of entry. There are multiple service providers that offer shelter, food, clothing, case management, and more to people who are homeless or lack resources.  The continuum of services they need requires a variety of service providers, and different agencies may be more suited to different people’s needs.
  • Community problem solving is a more effective strategy than “charity.” While handouts are helpful and can be ways to draw people into services, we need to bridge those who are homeless from their situations into the mainstream and ensure those one paycheck from homelessness receive help such as emergency loan funds (creating a relationship) rather than handouts that don’t change the root situation.
  • People who are homeless aren’t defined by the problems they have but the lack of resources to help address those problems. People with resources for the most part can access educational services, health care, mental health services, counseling, etc.  Those in poverty cannot.  Equity of availability does not imply equality of opportunity.
  • Do people who are homeless need help with housing first or with programs to address personal responsibility? The answer is they need both.  Homelessness can be the result of unavoidable personal circumstances (e.g. job loss) and/or of poor personal choices (e.g. substance abuse or a felony conviction).  The community needs a continuum of services that address both availability of affordable shelter and programs to impact personal choices.  When one solution becomes the favorite approach, we are too myopic and miss the whole picture.

 

Recommendations from panel for community:

  • Housing – very low cost, Single room occupancy (SRO) units – could use 300-400 units at around $100/week, supportive services onsite (case management, transportation, recovery support, health/mental health care connections), especially for longer term situations such as chronically mentally ill
  • Improved mental health services – State budget cuts from 2008/9 have not been restored. Inpatient and outpatient services are needed as well as supplemental supportive housing.
  • Consideration of overall financial stability of individuals and community – example of opening of new CommunityWorks Federal Credit union. Philanthropy can support by making deposits there.
  • Dependable transportation
  • Pairing people who are homeless or in poverty with mentors, such as Triune’s new Support Circles

 

Next Steps:

Reid suggested that those organizations that work with homelessness and poverty convene to identify top needs that could aid in their work (such as those items listed above).  He will pursue this with fellow service providers and maintain dialogue with GPP.

 

Other relevant information: