Groups, churches aim to house homeless after shelters close in York County

Agencies and churches across York County came together Tuesday to discuss an impending deadline. After March 15, the only seasonal homeless shelters in the county will close and dozens of people will have no place to go.

Renew Our Community, or ROC, is spearheading the effort to meet the need.

“About this time of year, our people start panicking a little,” said Iris Hubbard, director of ROC Central. “It’s imperative for us we make sure our people are sheltered in our community.”

In the past, when the shelters at Bethel United Methodist Church and the Salvation Army close for the season, homeless people were generally out of luck. ROC workers would give them a sleeping bag and just hope for the best.

But if everyone in the community were to work together to house the homeless while the shelters are closed, the problem could be solved, Hubbard and several other community leaders and clergy members said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The model discussed was similar to that used by Family Promise of York County and Room in the Inn, a program run by the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte.

Churches or other community agencies take turns transforming a gym or other space into a temporary shelter, with cots or air mattresses. The group provides a dinner and breakfast and a space to take a shower and transportation to and from a central location. While one group can take on the whole task, it can also be broken up among multiple organizations.

While Room in the Inn asks churches to do a day at a time, the Family Promise model uses church space on a weekly basis.

“When you start breaking it down, it’s so doable,” said Liza Holmes, who runs the men’s warming center at Bethel. “The community can solve this.”

To handle the first two weeks after the shelters close on March 16, Dale Dove, a Rock Hill attorney and ROC board member, said two to four churches need to step up and be the first to take on the 40 or so people staying in the shelters.

From there, a long-term schedule can be developed, Dove said.

Robert Britt, an ROC client who is staying at the Bethel men’s warming center, attended the meeting. He has a job and said even though he doesn’t have a place to stay, every dime he can spare would go toward establishing these temporary shelters to help others.

“I’m homeless but I’m not helpless,” Britt said.