Local shelter seeing longer stays as affordable housing harder to come by

Homeless Shelter Capacity

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A Grand Strand shelter is looking for ways to expand, as many people are struggling to find affordable housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic hasn’t been easy on shelter services, especially when it comes to the demand in those needing a place to go. Fewer opportunities for permanent affordable housing to help place families isn’t helping to solve the problem either.

Many people are just one pay check away from being in the same situation.

Shawn Szirbik - who has a family of five - has called the New Directions family shelter home for quite some time.

“We had a bad landlord and needed to get out for safety for the kid. This was the closest place in a hurry we could get to,” Szirbik said.

Next month will be two years since the Szirbiks’ have been at the shelter. Luckily for them, they’re expected to land an affordable housing opportunity soon.

For many families, the stay has been longer than expected.

“We have a very limited amount of affordable housing here in the first place and more and more people are struggling so people are not moving on,” said Kathy Jenkins, the executive director of New Directions.

Jenkins added the Eastern Carolina Housing Organization, known as ECHO, has helped with placing families but they’re still on wait lists.

Not only has the pandemic added to the need for housing to accommodate the growing number of homeless men, women and children, but it’s also been a struggle to adapt to a different way of learning with many children in one location.

“We have partnered with the junior league and every Thursday they send women over to help tutor our kids and it’s been extremely helpful,” Jenkins said.

At this time, the shelter has nine students who are hybrid, ten in virtual and five who aren’t in school yet.

Jenkins said as they continue to see the need increase, they’re looking for alternatives ways to expand and ways to offer more beds.

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