Rock Hill center for homeless facing increasing demand for services

adouglas@heraldonline.comJuly 3, 2013 

  • Want to help?

    Renew Our Community is a nonprofit organization in downtown Rock Hill that accepts nonperishable food items, monetary donations and some household furniture. Gifts to the organization are tax deductible.

    Checks may be written to Renew Our Community and sent to 119 E. White St., Rock Hill, SC 29731.

    The center accepts dropped-off donations between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    More information, call 803-328-0003 or visit www.renewoc.org.

A U.S. postal worker carried in a single piece of mail – a $25 check – just before closing time at the “ROC” in downtown Rock Hill this week.

The money will put gas in someone’s car to travel to a job interview and help pay for someone’s prescription.

Donations of all amounts help, said “ROC” director Iris Smalls-Hubbard as she tucked the check back into its envelope Tuesday afternoon.

ROC, or Renew Our Community, helps the homeless find shelter, the unemployed find work and those without transportation get to medical appointments and job interviews.

This week, the center’s pantry shelves were low on food usually given to clients as they wait for counseling services, help with resumes or advice from ROC volunteers.

The center isn’t a soup kitchen or large grocery operation, Hubbard said, but when clients come in hungry, their basic needs need to be met before the volunteers can address their bigger issues.

On a busy day, about 70 people walk through ROC’s doors on White Street, near Dave Lyle Boulevard, looking for help.

The center is housed in a York County-owned building that is the former home of Good Kia.

Dale Dove, a Rock Hill adoption attorney, started ROC more than a year ago as place to address a range of people’s crises – from hunger to substance abuse – through Christian spiritual renewal.

Initially, Hubbard said, ROC was essentially a day shelter for people with nowhere else to go.

Since its founding, ROC has evolved to include more services and houses offices that offer GED adult education classes, women’s counseling and Benefit Bank access, a state government website allowing people to sign up for food stamps and other programs.

ROC tries to help people cycle out of homelessness and get on their feet, Hubbard said, but tackling social issues is difficult when someone’s basic needs such as food aren’t met.

This week, Hubbard helped a woman with two children who’d just been evicted from their home.

Local shelters were full, she said, and the woman and her kids needed food and clothes.

The young girls played at the ROC while Hubbard made calls to help the woman find a place to stay and volunteers found clothes for the family in the center’s closet.

“She cried the whole time,” she said.

While the family waited, ROC provided them with snacks from pantry shelves that are running low this summer due to increased demand and decreased donations.

People come to the ROC in “crisis mode,” Hubbard said, and something small like a can of Vienna sausages or a granola bar can give them hope.

Typically, local church pantries will donate food to the ROC to use in the center.

Over the past two months, Hubbard has seen the donations slow down – probably because churches have had a higher demand from those needing food from pantries, she said.

ROC sometimes provides families with about three days of food and uses donated cars to drive clients to a soup kitchen.

More often, food is provided while people wait for help or use computers to job hunt or create a resume.

Homelessness in York County is a problem that should be addressed by the community itself, Hubbard said, which is one reason the ROC doesn’t rely on government grants or funding to keep its doors open.

The center’s services are biblically based, she said, and its volunteers focus on spiritual growth and renewal of people seeking help, including hosting a weekly Bible study session.

With a national economy still in recovery mode, ROC sees poor and homeless people needing help who have never been without a job or food before in their lives, Hubbard said.

Soon, to demonstrate how suddenly poverty can hit, ROC will have a sign in the center that says, “But for the grace of God go I,” she said.

Future plans for Hubbard, ROC’s only paid staff member, and the center include advocating for more affordable housing in Rock Hill and a public transportation system.

Later this month, ROC will start picking up homeless people in Fort Mill to bring them to the Rock Hill center to receive support and advice.

The center wants to be a “one-stop shop,” and ROC leaders say Fort Mill needs a homeless shelter of its own.

Local charities don’t have enough room for every homeless person in York County, Hubbard said.

At the ROC, she said, she’s overheard homeless people talking about safe places in Rock Hill where homeless people can sleep without being arrested or told to leave.

It’s a problem the ROC is trying to alleviate by helping people find safe, affordable housing, Hubbard said.

A majority of the people the center serves are York County natives, not homeless people who have migrated from other towns, she said.

“It’s our community.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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