SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The homeless population in Spartanburg is on the rise, but several community members are working hard to change that.
“I’ve been in that place where I didn’t want to live another day. I know people go through that,” Lonnie Anderson said. “I’ve been in that place where I would just want to crawl in a hole and die somewhere.”
Lonnie Anderson was homeless for about two years, but he told 7 News it felt like an eternity.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen to me,” he said. “But I made a commitment to myself and God that I was just tired of going around in circles.”
Luckily, he found the Spartanburg Opportunity Center–a place that helps those struggling with homelessness get back on their feet.
They provide showers, clothing, laundry services, food, a health clinic, and, most importantly, case management.
“We are averaging at least 75 to 80 beneficiaries visiting the center each time we are open,” Beth Rutherford, with SPIHN, said.
Rutherford said the homeless population in Spartanburg is growing. And police have noticed it, too.
“Where, typically, officers would know each person that was homeless, where to find them, and where they’re staying, what we have noticed now is that there are people who are homeless and we don’t know who they are,” Major Art Littlejohn, with the Spartanburg Police Department, said.
Police told us they are seeing a lot of crimes surrounding this population, from panhandling and littering to assaults and overdoses.
Those with the Opportunity Center said, while their goal is to help folks get housing and an income, charges can make their job even more difficult.
“They get charged with minimal crimes, like trespassing and shoplifting; but someone pulls up their record and sees a lot of charges and doesn’t really research the charges, and just thinks they’re not a good risk,” Rutherford said.
Police said these crimes wouldn’t be as prevalent if the homeless knew the resources that are available for them in Spartanburg.
“If we have those services, like the Soup Kitchen, that provide a meal, then it’s less likely that that person would shoplift, take things from someone else, or panhandle,” Major Littlejohn said.
Anderson told 7 News he can relate.
Because he took advantage of the Opportunity Center, he now has a job, a vehicle, and an apartment.
“They just showed so much love to me,” Anderson said. “They showed me hope and that I could get out of this situation if I put some effort into it.”
He now has a message for anyone who may be where he once was.
“People out there, don’t give up,” he said. “Don’t give up.”
The Spartanburg Opportunity Center is located on Saxon Avenue and is open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00 a.m. To 11:00 a.m., and again from 1:00 p.m. To 3:30 p.m.