This is part IX in a series looking at the reality of being homeless in Fort Mill.
For months, the question of “How do we help the homeless?” has vexed officials and community residents who want to make a difference.
Now, through a series of community meetings and discussions with homeless people living in the community, there are answers to that question.
Renew Our Community has published a list of volunteer needs as the community organization moves forward to help Fort Mill’s homeless. The needs range from the small – helping keep track of donations – to the large – driving the ROC van that transports homeless people across the Catawba River from Fort Mill to Rock Hill, where services are available.
There are plenty of other needs, officials said. At least five volunteers are needed to pick up, wash, dry and deliver laundry each Thursday. A barber and stylist are needed to offer their services once a month at ROC Central in Rock Hill.
ROC officials also continue to work toward the goal of creating a ROC center in Fort Mill. Founder Dale Dove envisions a thrift store concept that would allow Fort Mill residents to drop off unwanted items at the center. Jobs could be created sorting and shelving the items, similar to Goodwill, but with the proceeds staying in the Fort Mill area to help the homeless and needy community.
“You can create a pile of jobs,” Dove said.
Homeless residents have a difficult time determining where in Fort Mill they can receive assistance, Dove said. Community members also have a hard time figuring out where they can volunteer their time to help.
“Right now, if you want to help you go find Mary [Baker, of Serving Meals Ministry] or Skip [a homeless man who assists other homeless residents]. They’re the most knowledgeable people in town,” Dove said.
A Fort Mill ROC could help solve that problem. In addition to the thrift store, there could be space for a community center with a kitchen, showers, meeting space for volunteers to organize, and rooms for the homeless and needy to get services from agencies that serve the county.
Originally, ROC officials had hoped the Fort Mill Care Center could be part of the community center concept but at a recent meeting Care Center President Eileen Misek said the facility would continue to maintain a separate operation.
“We are autonomous. I just want to make that clear,” Misek said.
The Care Center does not serve homeless people. Clients must have an address to receive services, Misek said. The Care Center refers homeless people to other organizations, such as ROC and The Salvation Army, for assistance.
“We’ve just always done it that way,” she said.