Plan calls for end to homelessness in Horry County

Agencies providing services to the homeless on the Grand Strand announced a plan Monday to achieve what appears to be a lofty goal: ending homelessness in Horry County within ten years.

But leaders of the various agencies and organizations admit that a goal of ending homelessness entirely is unrealistic.

"We can never end homelessness. We would end people that are currently homeless and provide the perfect services and that way they can go back on their feet and back to self-sufficiency," said Lloyd Flores, president of ECHO, the Eastern Carolina Homeless Organization.

Carol Stallings of Swash Park Ministry in Myrtle Beach says the effort will focus specifically on coming up with a solution for Horry County.

"Focusing there to get as many of them off the streets and out of the woods as we can," Stallings said.

In their presentation at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Stallings, Flores and others unveiled the outline of a 150-page plan that includes creating a new umbrella organization, Horry County Homelessness Collaborative. The HCHC would coordinate services currently provided by nearly 60 agencies and non-profit groups.

The agencies hope to achieve five goals over the next ten years: coordination of planning of homeless services in the county, strengthening awareness and advocacy, expanding shelter and support services, reducing the risk factors that contribute to homelessness and promoting the expansion of affordable housing in Horry County.

Flores says with foreclosure and unemployment rates still high, the homeless problem is growing on the Grand Strand. The most recent available survey results showed there were 1,061 homeless persons in the county in 2009, with a shortage of 627 beds to serve them. A separate survey counted 612 homeless school students in the county.

Stallings says coordinating the various agencies that provide shelter and services to the homeless would play a big role in solving the problem.

"Whoever knew that there was over 50 agencies here? And when you see us all working together and attending these meetings and putting our ideas together, you can make a difference," she said.

Flores says his organization will also focus on intervention before someone becomes homeless.

"You're only one paycheck away to become homeless, so it could be anybody."

Jonathan Kresken, president of the Waccammaw Community Foundation that provided much of the funding for the ten-year plan, said local residents need to be assured that all funding raised for Horry County homeless programs will stay in the county.