HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Some students at Coastal Carolina University are looking to improve lives in Horry County.
These students took part in a project to count how many homeless there are in the area. The hope is that data could help get more funding for those in need.
The task is to see not just how many homeless are in Horry County, but what specific problems exist in the community, such as whether children are homeless, people suffering from mental illness or individuals battling drug addiction.
Dr. Stephanie Southworth, a sociology professor at CCU, was asked to be the coordinator for this project in Horry County. She said many counties also do a homeless count, but not are lucky enough to have college students willing to volunteer their time.
"I think that a lot of people are one paycheck away from being homeless themselves," Southworth said. "The homeless are a group of people that are stigmatized a lot of the time. They have either mental disabilities or physical disabilities or a death in their family. (It's) just one tragic thing that put them over the edge. What I was surprised by is I have five classes that I teach, and I had about 20 volunteers from my other classes who volunteered because they thought it was interesting, and some students came out more than once."
Mykal Amendola-Alt is one of the students who went out to talk to those who are struggling. He said classmates would conduct short surveys on their history, but also listen to their stories and provide them with clothes and food.
"You don't want to go and pry and ask questions that may offend them to their own situations, but there is definitely a level of human emotion involved," Amendola-Alt said.
Southworth said that is exactly what she's hoping too.
"The more people we count, the more funding we can get," she said. "So if we find that a third of the people have documented mental illnesses, we can get more funding for mental services."
Southworth added the data is still rolling in, but she feels they will find out more about the homeless in Horry County than ever before, thanks to the efforts of her students.
"I am thrilled with the response of my students. Every single one of them went out to do this with 100 percent of their effort. Coastal Carolina has some good students," she said.
All of these studies fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will decide which areas have the biggest problem, and what services are needed.