ROCK HILL — When Derrick Davis heard there was an opening at The Haven Mens Shelter, he went to see about a bed.
Davis, a 34-year-old Rock Hill man, had been spending the occasional night outside until October when he went to see Wendy Adams, 43, The Havens new executive director.
Sitting with Davis at the shelter Thursday, Adams, who graduated from Winthrop University this year, recalled the story.
She asked him, What are your goals? What do you want to do?
Davis grew up in the Hagins-Fewell neighborhood of Rock Hill. Hes faced trouble and was given a second chance by authorities.
After meeting Adams and entering the program at The Haven, Davis earned his GED and is starting York Technical College in January. Hell be studying welding.
All I needed was someone to back me, said Davis, who spent the day at the York County Library looking for work.
Adams said shell always have his back as long as he stays out of trouble.
Adams became the executive director at The Haven in August, replacing Jessica Lynn, who took another job.
She graduated from Winthrop University this year with a masters degree in social work.
The shelter can house about 12 men each night and provides a hot meal prepared and served by an army of volunteers. The shelter has a budget of about $189,000, Adams said.
The men who stay there must participate in a program of seeking help and bettering themselves.
Its about the rebuilding of lives, Adams said.
The Haven works with area agencies, both the state employment office and nonprofits such as the United Way and The ROC, which bills itself as a hub connecting those in need to the services that can help them.
Lora Holladay, with the United Way of York County, said The Haven serves a vital role in York County as the only mens shelter in Rock Hill.
Its not just a place to sleep, Holladay said. Theyre actually trying to better clients by providing that whole transition back to not being homeless anymore ... ending the cycle of homelessness.
A good fit
Adams says she didnt foresee working with homeless men, but now it makes sense because her life has been leading her there, she said.
She worked as a police officer in Summerville for 15 years, eventually moving into child advocacy as a certified forensics interviewer.
Eventually she came to Rock Hill where she continued working as a child advocate before deciding to go back to school.
At 36 she decided to go to college at Winthrop, where she earned a bachelors degree in social work in 2011 and a masters in 2012.
Adams says shes a good fit for The Haven because she can identify with what her clients are going through to some degree. She spent time in foster care as a youth, which isnt the same as being homeless but feels similar because its not your home.
Shes also a first-generation college student.
Going to college was never programmed with me as a kid, she said. Those were conversations that Derrick and I never had in our families.
In that way, she already feels invested in working with clients.
Shes looking forward to taking on the challenge of helping homeless people in York County, where she sees a tremendous need, illustrated in the 28 names on The Havens waiting list.
This being National Homeless and Hunger Week, Adams is eager to get the word out.
Food, clothing and shelter if you have those basic necessities, you can build from it, she said, challenging the community to step up and help.
Theres not a single person in this world whos not a paycheck or one major illness away from homelessness.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062