GREENVILLE, SC – Reading the bible helps James Williams pass the time.
Williams, who sits at the front desk, helps man security at the Greenville Rescue Mission.
“I’m like that cop up North that sort of points you in the right direction,” he said Wednesday, pushing a button to allow people inside.
But Williams isn’t paid to work at the shelter.
He volunteers, because he lives there.
“That person that comes to the window that needs help, that’s me just a couple of months ago,” he said. “My best thinking got me to that front door.”
While it’s not his final stop, Williams told 7-News he’s one of the fortunate one’s who has a place to live.
According to those who run the shelter, they’re at full capacity.
“There are people that are turned away every day, as many as 25 people a week are turned away because we are full,” explained Jeremy Huff, Program Manager at The Greenville Rescue Mission.
Susan McLarty, Coordinator for The Greenville Homeless Alliance confirmed that out of the 350 beds in shelters across the city, not including cold weather beds, typically all are taken every day.
While space is an issue, Huff said the problem isn’t that they need to expand shelter space; it’s that no one is leaving.
“People are having to stay in the shelters a lot longer than they would at a normal emergency shelter kind of situation,” he explained. “The reason for that is that there’s no affordable places for them to exit to.”
According to McLarty, a need for affordable homes isn’t new, but there is a great need for single bedroom homes that can cater to the homeless with disabilities and other health concerns.
“The type that we’re identifying as ‘exit from shelter’ has not been one of the higher priorities within the affordable housing discussion,” she said.
McLarty added that local organizations have been in contact with city and county government officials about finding space for those who are ready to move on, but can’t afford many of the local apartment costs.
Many who are homeless do have jobs but cannot afford their own vehicles, so expanding public transportation routes and hours would also help solve the problem, she said.