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United Way battles hunger, homelessness as winter arrives in Kershaw County

Posted: November 8, 2011 3:27 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The week of Nov. 13-20 is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The United Way of Kershaw County and partnership agencies want to bring awareness to solving the problem of hunger and homelessness in Kershaw County.
The following events have been planned to help those in need.

A community awareness lunch will be held at Food for the Soul Soup Kitchen Tuesday, at noon. A soup and cornbread lunch will be served and there will be guest speakers to talk briefly about their homeless experiences. It will also be an opportunity for those who have not seen this facility to look around and find out how it is helping the hungry and homeless.

There will also be a community food drive, Pack-a-pick-up, at local grocery stores on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help stock food pantries in Kershaw County.

A coat drive is going on now through Nov. 30 to collect new and gently used coats (all sizes) to be distributed to those in need of a coat to stay warm. Coats can be dropped off at United Way of Kershaw County, 110 East DeKalb St., Camden, during normal business hours.

Kershaw County Councilman Bobby Gary is hosting a basketball tournament at Rhame City Arena Saturday, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. Entry fee for a team (adults) is 125 cans of nonperishable food and spectators should bring two cans. Food will be donated to local food pantries. Call Gary at 427-7124 for more information.

“As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in our homes with our families we must remember that some families have no permanent home and not enough food to eat,” Marie Sheheen, UWKC housing coordinator said. “Because of rising gasoline and food prices and Kershaw County’s high unemployment rate, it is harder than ever to find affordable housing and feed a family.”

Being homeless is defined as individuals and children who are lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes:
• Those who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
• Those who are living in motels, hotels, RV parks, or campgrounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
• Those living in emergency or transitional shelters.
• Those abandoned in hospitals.
• Youth who have been put out of their homes or had to leave because of abuse.
• Those who have a primary nighttime residence that is a private or public place not designed for or ordinarily used for regular sleeping accommodation for human beings (ex. hospital waiting room, airport, storage unit, garage, etc).
• Those who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.

In Kershaw County, most of the homeless live doubled or tripled up in the homes of relatives or friends where they have no privacy, no place for their belongings, and may not even have a bed, just a sofa or place on the floor, according to UWKC. These families move around frequently because of the inconveniences to the host family. A number of people live in cheap motels, often with many persons to a small room. There are other adults who live in abandoned houses or buildings, under bridges, or in the woods.

The 2011 HUD Homeless Count, conducted by trained volunteers and homeless service providers in a 24-hour period at the end of January, attempted to show a snapshot of S.C.’s homeless population. In the 14-county area known as MACH (Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless) there were 1,621 adults, youth, and children considered to be homeless. The 2009 count was 1,368. Some of these were in emergency or transitional shelters at the time but most were on the streets and other outdoor places or doubled up in motels or very crowded houses/apartments. In other parts of the country where counts have been done, researchers estimate that the number counted should be multiplied by six to have more accurate numbers of those experiencing homelessness.

“In Kershaw County we were able to find 95 persons on the day of the count,” Sheheen said. “We know this is not a true reflection of the problem because for the 2007-2008 school year there were 160 school-aged children who were homeless under the McKinney-Vento law (slightly different from the HUD definition).”

For more detailed statistics the entire 2011 Homeless Count Report can be found at www.schomeless.org.
According to Sheheen, people can become homeless for a variety of reasons, the main ones being poverty; lack of affordable housing and limited housing assistance programs; foreclosure or eviction; loss of income (due to job loss, divorce, death, loss of benefits); lack of education (no high school diploma); criminal record (barrier to employment); poor credit; serious illness or disability; domestic violence; mental illness (one example would be Veterans with PTSD); addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling,etc.); and lack of jobs due to the economic recession.

Homelessness results from a complex set of circumstances that require people to choose between food, shelter, medical care, and other basic needs, Sheheen said. Only a concerted effort to ensure jobs that pay a living wage, adequate support for those who cannot work, affordable housing, and access to health care will bring an end to homelessness.

Organizations that help in Kershaw County

New Day on Mill is a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children that began as a collaboration between the United Way of Kershaw County, the Kershaw County Housing Partnership and Camden First Community Development Corporation. It began in September 2006 and has served 37 adults and 47 children.

Residents are people who have admitted that they need assistance with handling the everyday stressors of life.
Each family is assigned one of the five cottages, based on the size of the family, and is allowed to stay for three to six months. They receive counseling for budgeting, parenting skills, and other life skills which can help them remove the barriers that prevented them from becoming independent. The purpose of the program is to help families move to permanent housing and maintain a stable lifestyle.

Much of the success of the program is due to the generosity of the Camden community.

“We have two cottages that have been adopted by area churches, a playground was donated by the Camden Junior Welfare League and contributions from various churches and individuals have allowed us to build a laundry room for the residents to use and also install central heating and cooling in each of the cottages,” New Day Director Harriet Reid said.
If you want to know more about the program, stop by and visit the office at 1207 Mill St. or call 432-5456.

Mt. Moriah Baptist Church began its ministry of feeding hungry and homeless persons in the Camden area 28 years ago. it operates a soup kitchen right next door to the church on Broad Street in Camden on Mondays and Saturdays feeding 40-50 people there and deliver meals to about 50 people who are shut-ins.  Volunteers purchase, prepare, serve, and delivers the meals and have collaborated with others in the community. Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Black River Road does the meal and delivery once a month and Mt. Moriah was instrumental in helping Food for the Soul Soup Kitchen  get started by letting Food for the Soul volunteers serve a Wednesday meal there for about a year while their facility was being constructed.

Food for the Soul is a faith-based nonprofit community organization which operates a soup kitchen and emergency shelter program. It originated through the generosity of two Camden residents who left portions of their estates to help the county’s poor and needy. The organization’s mission is to serve as a Christ-like ministry to meet the increasing needs of the hungry and homeless in Kershaw County.

Food for the Soul serves a healthy and balanced meal, free of charge, from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday - Friday to anyone in need. It is currently serving an average of 50 to 70 or more people a day. It also offer temporary emergency shelter to individuals and families in crisis; provide daytime services for the homeless, including shower facilities and clothes washers and dryers; and will operate a winter shelter to offer homeless people a safe and warm place to sleep overnight when the weather is dangerously cold.

For further information or to volunteer or make a donation, visit the Food for the Soul Center, open 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, or contact facility director Fred Ogburn at 432-4771. Visit the organization online at www.foodforthesoulkc.org or on Facebook.

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