NewsChannel 15 gets intimate look into homeless camp where man was set on fire

Within a week, two violent crimes have occurred near a homeless encampment in Horry County. A man was stabbed last Saturday, and a homeless man was set on fire while he was asleep early Friday morning. Friday afternoon, NewsChannel 15's Lindsey Theis got an intimate look inside the camp and spoke with several who live there.

"There's at least 200 people that are homeless living in small compounds like this probably within a two mile radius of street reach and helping hands," John Davis said. Davis has been in the camps for about a month, after he was laid off the day after Christmas.

"This could happen to anyone," he said.

He describes the experience so far as sobering, and very humbling.

About 30 people lived in the particular encampment in Myrtle Beach. NewsChannel 15 visited along with Little River Medical Center's Community Outreach Liaison Izmira Palomares.

"They all know me," she explained as the crew approached the camp. Palomares goes across the area to homeless camps. She says there are camps like this one in Little River, Myrtle Beach, even behind some of the neighborhoods in Carolina Forest.

"I've got pants and blankets!" she yelled to the group as she walked up.

"A lot of the residents of Horry County, they don't want to see the homeless. They themselves don't want to be homeless," she said of the group living there.

Once at the site, the crew met John Gibson, who has been in the camps for almost two years.

"We moved here from Ohio," he says. "We scrap to make money and then bring it back for the whole group."

Scrapping, Gibson explains is going through the dumpster to try to find small scrap metal to bring in to salvage yards for money.

"{We'll get} contract work too," he explains. "But it's hard sometimes too because contractors don't know where or how to pay us."

"I've had before where I have done work and then wasn't paid," says Matthew Randall, another member of one of the camps.

Randall, 53, has been in the camps for about two months.

"I came down from Spartanburg. We thought we had a job down here painting," he explains. "Then I get down here, and I get the call the job is off. And I thought, now what. Now what do I do?"

Randall is one of Palomares' regular patients. He's been coming to Little River Medical for a blister that is now an open sore on his elbow.

"It's hard to keep it clean out here. It's gotten infected twice," he says. "If it wasn't for Little River Medical and Street Reach I don't know what I'd do."

But Friday night, that infection is the least of his worries.

"Just stupid people you know. Ones that don't like the homeless and they try to come in and then they you know they try to hurt people," he says, referring to the recent crimes.

Horry County police arrested another homeless man in that stabbing. They are still investigating the man set on fire. Gibson thinks someone from a nearby camp might be to blame, but the others at the camp said they didn't know anything about it. Most said they just wanted to be left alone.