SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - In January 2013, 6,035 people in South Carolina were living in shelters or on the street, the SC Coalition for the Homeless reports.
Every two years, the SCCH counts the number of homeless and unsheltered - including those who live in uninhabitable places such as cars, parking garages and camps.
The increase with the latest count shocked the coalition.
"The apparent increase in the number of people without shelter is disturbing," said Anita Floyd, Chair of the SC Coalition for the Homeless. "We recognize that this is difficult research and that results are not an apples to apples comparison from one year to another but the increase showed up across the state is significant."
Horry, Richland and Greenville counties showed the greatest increases, perhaps because of their urban communities. Populated centers such as Charleston, Florence and Spartanburg also reported a greater number of unsheltered individuals.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the one-day census to determine the federal funds needed to care for the homeless.
"Families tend to double up with others to avoid the street and rural areas lack services making it difficult to find people who are homeless," Floyd said. "The HUD count misses many people."
Adults and children living in families represent 27 percent of the total found on January 24. Children and youth under age 18 represent 17 percent. These include women and children in domestic violence shelters.
Veterans represent 12 percent (596) of the adult homeless population including 51 women.
Almost a third (31 percent) of those surveyed reported they were experiencing their first episode of homelessness. More than a fifth reported that they had been homeless three or more times.
"We need prevention programs that keep people from falling into homelessness because it is more effective and less costly to keep someone in housing than to treat long term or repeat homelessness," said Mike Chesser, CEO of the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina and national homelessness advocate.
The full report is available at www.schomeless.org.