Efforts ramp up to end homelessness in Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Horry County officials cleared a lot of land along Robert Grissom Parkway in an effort to clean out a homeless camp.

On Friday, an outreach program will take place to provide food, health services, clothing and housing options to veterans and homeless veterans. Stand Down at the Beach is sponsored by AARP. Doris Gleason, the Community Outreach Director for AARP, says this is the first time an event this large directed towards helping homeless veterans has ever been held in Horry County.

There will be dentists, doctors, lawyers, mental health workers and barbers on hand to provide their services. Experts will also be on hand to help any veteran who would like to find a job or permanent housing. All together, there will be more than 40 agencies on site to help veterans and homeless veterans alike. There will also be a free breakfast and lunch provided. And at the end of the day, they will pass out items like sleeping bags and canned food from the Army to homeless veterans.

The event is not just to provide for the immediate needs of our homeless veterans, but to address a larger issue. Gleason says this event is so important because they do not know how many homeless veterans are living in our area. So this will allow them to gauge the prevalence of homelessness and learn how its program can better be of service from here on out.

"Long term hope is for those veterans who really want help with housing, help with benefits, things like that, that they get that," says Gleason. "We know that there are some who do not want any help. We know that. But the ones who really do want it, we want to be able to see them go ahead and get the benefits. Get the housing, get jobs, get what they need to get back on their feet."

And there are other groups in the Myrtle Beach area that are working towards long-term solutions for anyone who is homeless. Kathy Jenkins is the Executive Director of New Directions of Horry County, a group that works to move people out of homelessness and poverty into jobs, financial stability and permanent housing. Jenkins says there are an estimated 900 homeless people in Horry County; 150 of them are residents in their Street Reach program. With the recent efforts by police to clean out homeless camps, Jenkins says that is the jolt some people need to make permanent changes so they can get back on their feet.

"I would like to think that this is going to be an 'Aha!' moment for people," says Jenkins. "People who want to change and maybe they're caught in the cycle of homelessness and they really don't know how to get out. That they would seek help. That they would seek the resources that are available. Rather than moving from place to place. And that just remains to be seen."

But for some homeless people, Jenkins says getting kicked out of a camp ends up just being a short-term shuffle to another camp. Jenkins adds that she believes the problem will continue to grow here, because Myrtle Beach attracts people from elsewhere with the high hopes of finding a job in a coastal town. But, she says, many fall into homelessness because they do not realize that a majority of the jobs available here are seasonal.

If you would like help or to offer help to someone who you know is homeless, contact New Directions of Horry County at (843) 626-3643. Or visit their website www.myndhc.org/.

If you would like to go to the Stand Down at the Beach event, it is Friday September 19 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the U.S. Armory Reserve near Market Commons, 3392 Phillis Blvd. The event is not just for Myrtle Beach homeless veterans, but those in our surrounding counties as well. There will be transportation from the Andrews and Georgetown areas as well as Myrtle Beach. For help with transportation, call Doris Gleason at (813) 873-2266. It's important to note, other veterans who are not struggling with homelessness can also come out to this event to find out about the benefits being offered to them.

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