Workdays start for William Gosnell before dawn, among the snorts, snores and grunts of 15 other sleeping men in a small concrete building. The sound of a heaving chest is routine at The Haven.
The Haven is a homeless shelter. Gosnell lives there and is happy to have it.
But not for long - with a break.
Gosnell, 42, works at day labor for a construction company. He walks through the darkness from the shelter, on deserted sidewalks and through weeds on a right leg that is swollen from a blood clot, to get to the labor company. There the hiring construction crew will send somebody to pick up the laborers.
Gosnell's job is flag man for road construction. He stands on that swollen leg all day, sometimes eight hours, sometimes 10, or more.
On Thursday and Friday the job was in Clover, and York.
"One night we worked until midnight," Gosnell said. "But when you have to work to try and get a place to live, you do what you gotta do."
The other workers might break for a sandwich lunch, or buy something hot, such as coffee and a doughnut.
Gosnell, if he can help it, spends nothing. Over the last weeks, Gosnell has saved his money. He found a tiny place, near the old Highland Park mill in Rock Hill. He has paid the security deposit. He's working on the first month's rent, and the money to get the utilities turned on.
"When I get that, I can move in," Gosnell said. "Can't move into a place without water, a toilet, lights. But I will have a home."
But not yet. Friday's weather stopped work in the early afternoon. Gosnell could go to that house and look at it. But he could not go in. He had to go to a neighbor's house and stay until 6 p.m., when The Haven opens its doors for the night.
The Haven is one of those places easily overlooked. The men inside the building on Arch Street - a tiny road that dead ends near the shelter on the city's south side - are powerless, often jobless, always homeless. They have no political clout or money. The shelter is open 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.. During the day, then, the men have to fend for themselves. Some, like Gosnell, work.
The Haven helps them because they are people. Some of those they help find their way again through job searches and other services. The Haven, operating on a shoestring budget, has helped people since 2005.
"Will has really tried hard," said Jessica Lynn, a social worker who is The Haven's executive director. "He's worked for this house. He is determined to get it."
Gosnell used to work as an electrician before construction dried up and electricians had to turn to other jobs. He knows how tough this economy is. The guys at the shelter watch TV sports at night - not political nonsense and talking heads on cable. They need no rich guy in a suit to tell them the economy is in the ditch. The snoring guy in the next bed is reminder enough.
"I had a mobile home when I had a job," Gosnell said.
Gosnell was waiting in line, an hour before a charity opened, the week before Thanksgiving last year. The job was gone and the mobile home hung by a string. I found him there, waiting for food, and he left with rice and some meat, potatoes and cereal. Thanksgiving was Gosnell and Captain Crunch.
He lived on the food until it was gone. Soon after, he couldn't pay the mobile home rent. He ended up at The Haven for a short stretch, then moved to a daily rate motel that had enough trouble each night that the cops came by more than the pizza delivery guy. Nobody needed an alarm clock because either gunshots or sirens woke everybody up.
Finally, the money dried up and he was back at The Haven.
"I am so thankful that this place has given me a chance to stay alive," said Gosnell. "You get humbled in life when you have to go ask for food, live in a shelter. But it's better than the street."
When Gosnell has enough money for the utility deposits, he is going to move into that house. He has no couch or TV, bed or dresser. No refrigerator.
"But I will have a home," Gosnell said. "You got to start somewhere."
Want to help?
To donate to The Haven men's shelter, or to help people such as William Gosnell with furniture and clothing items, call Jessica Lynn, executive director of The Haven, at 803-328-0052 or 803-328-1143, or e-mail her at email@example.com.