|Marie Coppola - November 15, 2010
As thousands across the nation hit rock bottom from the recession, there are a growing number of persons without homes as well - and right here, in Horry County. Although the exact number is hard to document due to the transient nature of the homeless, the last count, in 2009, showed Horry County had 893 homeless people, compared with 714 people in 2007. And out of the 893 people, 62 are homeless veterans, according to the 2009 count. That number has more than tripled from 17 in 2007.
There are 612 documented homeless students in the Horry County schools in the 2009-2010 school year to date; 323 in elementary school; 179 in middle school and 110 in high school. Homeless families with children represent the fastest growing subpopulation among the homeless. According to the South Carolina Department of Education, more than 10,820 students are considered to be homeless and attend schools across this state, up from 6,033 in 2007. They say many of the students live in cars, abandoned buildings, and the homes of distant family members and friends. Myrtle Beach High School has one of the higher concentrations of homeless students in Horry County; there were nine homeless students graduated with the Class of 2009.
Nation-wide, veterans make up as many as one-fourth of the homeless population and up to 40% of homeless men are veterans. In Horry County, a documented 62 homeless persons are veterans. Horry County has the third highest number of homeless veterans in the State.
Kris Tourtellotte, director of the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River, thinks there are at least 100 homeless veterans in the area today. "It's a growing problem," said Tourtellotte, who said places that cater to the veterans are struggling to raise funds. "[The proposed shelter in NMB] is going to be good for us and the veterans."
Such a shelter exists in the Charleston area, but officials from the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River say it's unlikely that local veterans will need to travel that far once the planned shelter is opened. "Preference will be given to vets, but it's not just for vets," said Ron Causey about the homeless shelter in the North Strand area. Causey will be the on-site coordinator at the facility.
Why do people become homeless? Poverty is the primary contributor. The top four stated reasons for homelessness in Horry County from 2006 to 2009 are: 1] underemployment/low income is the highest -- statistically 15.0% -- and are the most prevalent for all 4 years) 2] domestic violence, 3] eviction; and 4] no affordable housing. Multiple and often related social factors can contribute to a state of poverty. The prevalence of single parent households, teen pregnancy, domestic violence and at-risk behavior are associated with higher rates of poverty and risk of homelessness often compound the burden for those who become homeless.
Other reasons are: Substance Abuse; Loss of Job; Mental Health, Medical Condition; Criminal Activity; Substandard Housing; Loss of Transportation; Health/Safety.
Persons with disabilities are more widespread among the homeless population. Almost 26% of the homeless in SC have some form of disability.
Foster care, mental health, substance abuse, rural families economies, doubling up of families hurt by the loss of homes or jobs, or the opposite -- loss of family ties with no where to turn are other reasons for homelessness. It is difficult for persons of low and moderate incomes to afford housing in Horry County.
The death rate among the homeless is nearly four times that of the general population. Eighteen homeless individuals died on the streets of Horry County during 2009. Causes range from seizure, heart attack, cancer and homicide. One individual froze to death overnight outside a fish market in March. Three of the homeless were victims of homicide - two stabbings and one beating. One died when his tent caught on fire. Seven homeless persons died in their sleep of unspecified causes
This article is part I of a 3 part series on the homeless in Horry County, SC. The next article will focus on a soon-coming opening in mid-December, the North Strand Housing Shelter on Route 9 in Longs. please contact Dana Black at 980-275-0385; Ron Causey at 655-4524; or visit www.northstrandhousingshelter.org.
North Strand Housing Shelter - Sun News
Ninety-year-old volunteer George Burns pries up carpet tack strips at the North Strand Housing Shelter. 'Kings Karpenters,'(CQ) a volunteer group from First Baptist Church of North Myrtle Beach, is helping to get the shelter ready. Photo by Tom Murray firstname.lastname@example.org–The Sun News
"There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help". Jan Schakowsky
References: This report summarizes a recently-published and very comprehensive public information article on the internet, a must-read for everyone in Horry County: Ten-Year Collaborative Plan to End Homelessness in Horry County, South Carolina http://www.cityofmyrtlebeach.com/PDF%20Forms/10%20Year%20Plan%20to%20End%20Homelessness.pdf by Home Alliance, Inc. & The Matheny-Burns Group; Ref: Sun News; SC Department of Education; Report of Ten-Year Collaborative Plan to End Homelessness in Horry County, SC