Economic hardship leads to more people at risk of homelessness


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- A precarious economic situation is leaving some in the Upstate on the brink of homelessness.

According to Lauren Stephens, who is the director of social ministries at the Salvation Army in Greenville, homelessness was already a problem in Greenville, and now a lot of new people are reaching out to them to ask for help with their rents or mortgages. Most of them say it’s a direct result of Covid-19, according to Stephens.

According to the Greenville Homeless Alliance, Greenville County has the state’s highest number of households that are “rent burdened.” Resources for the homeless are already strained, and the coronavirus pandemic is making it worse.

“We have seen a lot more contact in the last two weeks with folks who are not currently going into homelessness but are afraid that’s whats going to happen,” Stephens said.

In April, the South Carolina Supreme Court put a temporary pause on evictions, but that comes to end on Friday. Stephens said that reality is becoming a problem, with a lot of people reaching out for help who don’t have experience navigating the existing resources.

“It’s folks who have never assistance before,” Stephens said. “A few folks have asked us do they have to pay it back, and so it’s just kind of navigating this new normal that’s being developed as we stand by.”

She said the Salvation Army has been operating at capacity for about two or three years now, but she said they are still trying to provide rent and mortage assistance for those in need.

According to the Greenville Homeless Alliance, before the pandemic, the county lacked 12,000 affordable housing units for those making less than $25,000 a year, and emergency shelters continue to operate at or above capacity.

Those experiencing homelessness can find more information on resources available here.

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