Upstate food pantry challenged with finding affordable space to serve

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The plight of a food pantry and it’s search for a new home near downtown Greenville have exposed another serious problem.

For over a decade, Samaritan House has paid $1 a year to operate out of a Baptist church along Augusta Road.

The food pantry recently learned it needs to find a new place to serve and organizers said that’s created a huge challenge.

Both the church pastor and Samaritan House director say the challenge is caused by gentrification.

Thursdays are pick up days for the families served at Samaritan House of Greenville.

“They’ll come in, they’ll get screened by the screeners, they’ll get a bag of canned goods,” Director Steven Fior said.

Fior said a lot of the families seeking help have been in the area of Augusta Road for generations.

“They’re grandparents taking care of their grandkids now and they can’t make ends meet on a fixed income,” he said.

Fior said they served 480 families last month. That’s roughly 1,500 individuals.

“You know all the families by name,” he said.

Those connections happened over time. Ever since 2004 when they set up shop on the property of Augusta Heights Baptist Church.

Times are changing, especially in this area of town.

The church recently sold part of their property. The part Samaritan House sits on.

Pastor Greg Dover said it’s a decision the church voted on about a year ago.

“This community is changing so we’re trying to stymie some of that change that is less healthy for all of the community residents,” Dover said.

Dover explained the money generated from the sale of the land will go toward much needed upgrades to the church’s main building.

He assured the church is dedicated to helping Samaritan House find a new home but Fior said that’s been a challenge.

“The rents are just so expensive coming down from Greenville the city to this end the rents are getting unbelievable,” said Fior.

“I’ve been chasing down some leads but it just seems to be dead ends,” added Dover.

Those dead ends, Dover said, can be blamed on gentrification.

“If you think about a 1,200 square foot home and what that would rent for per month. That has skyrocketed recently especially around in our area here,” Dover said.

“We’re just hoping there’s some landlord with a store front he’s not using that could use a tax donation,” said Fior.

Samaritan House has a lease through May 2020, but Fior and Dover said they would like to be out of their current spot by the end of the year.

That’s because of the construction expected this fall.

The church and food pantry are both actively looking for another church or property owner who can help them stay in the Augusta Road area.

If you are a developer or a church who has space for the food pantry in the Augusta Road area, you can call Samaritan House at (864) 299-5898 or Augusta Heights Baptist Church at (864) 299-1180.

Samaritan House has been around since 2004.

The food pantry is supported by six area churches including Augusta Heights Baptist.

Augusta Heights has been the host location for Samaritan House for more than a decade.

The church has members that serve on the Samaritan House board and it has pledged to keep the food pantry on their property as long as possible and to help find a new location.

Dover said the church found a buyer and developer that will keep it consistent with the culture and character of the area instead of continuing the trend of gentrification and the boom of non-affordable housing.

“This community is changing so we’re trying to stymie some of that change that is less healthy for all of the community residents,” Dover said.

The food comes from Harvest Hope Food Bank, Loaves and Fishes, local grocery stores like Publix, and students who hold canned food drives at local schools.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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