FORT MILL — This is part VII of a series examining the reality of homeless people in Fort Mill Township.
Pam Landires, 61, has a roof over her head.
For that, she is grateful.
She has no running water or electricity, and many of the windows in the home she stays in are broken. A mop bucket or a hole in the ground functions as her toilet.
Still, Landires said, its a step up from where she was.
Just a few months ago, she was living in a tent behind Chick-fil-A, across the street from Baxter Village. The weather turned cold and uncomfortable. When a raccoon got into her tent and stole a loaf of bread, she decided shed had enough. It was around then that she ran into a woman who gave her permission to stay in the place shes calling home now.
Im OK, she said. Its better than the tent.
Technically, despite the roof over her head, Landires is homeless. The Department of Health and Human Services defines homelessness as, in part, being in an unstable or nonpermanent situation.
Thats Landires. Shes not sure how long shell be allowed to live in the home she was given access to, she said.
During the day, Landires walks around the downtown Fort Mill area. She spends many mornings at the Fort Mill Senior Center, housed at Unity Presbyterian Church, singing songs and doing crafts. They feed her lunch, often the only hot meal she gets that day.
She receives food stamps from the government, but they typically only provide her with two weeks worth of groceries each month. Bread, canned tuna, and beans are staples on her grocery list, she said.
Food stamps dont pay for items like toilet paper, she said, so she has to beg for money to buy it, or rely on donations.
Landires doesnt have a car, so shes forced to get groceries at convenience stores and drug stores that are within walking distance. Food and merchandise is far more expensive at those stores than at a grocery store, she said.
Itd last longer if I could get a ride to the store, she said.
Some mornings she walks to the Fort Mill Care Center on Banks Street, where she picks up some canned goods and puts them in her backpack before making the mile and a half journey back home. On a recent morning, she walked to the Care Center to pick up some food and also to receive help paying for her blood pressure medication, which she said she cant otherwise afford.
The Care Center called the prescription in for her and took care of the bill.
Then Landires, with no transportation, began the nearly two-mile walk to pick up the prescription.
Despite the warm weather, Landires wears long sleeves and jeans with a toboggan over her head. She hunches over slightly, with her backpack weighing her down as she trudges down the street slowly.
No one wants to give you rides, Landires said. Theyre scared.
When she is offered a ride, Landires suntanned face breaks into a wide, gap-toothed grin.
In the last three years, Landires can only remember being offered a ride five times. Last month, a woman offered to take her to Baxter Village to catch the CATS bus to Charlotte, so she could go see her doctor. She took the bus to Charlotte and walked to her doctors office from the bus stop a short walk, she said.
But after her appointment, no one would stop to give her a ride back to Fort Mill.
Landires walked from Charlotte to Fort Mill, a three-and-a-half hour trek.
Landires said her doctor suspects she might have diabetes because shes lost 40 pounds since last year, the last time she was able to see her doctor. Landires suspects its partly because of lack of food. Shes supposed to go back to the doctor for more tests, but thats not going to happen, Landires said.
I cant get a ride there and I cant walk again, she said. I guess Im going to have to figure out finding another doctor or something.
She needs a dentist as well, she added. Many of her teeth are rotten or broken. Several have fallen out, and she only has 10 left.
Road to homelessness
Landires has been homeless off and on since 2005 when she walked away from an abusive husband in Monroe and never looked back, she said. Public record shows that she has one DUI, for which she had her license suspended, and that she had also lived in Fort Mill previously.
He was awful, beat me black and blue, she said about her husband. I left a house, brand new car, swimming pool.
She lived in her van for awhile and cleaned houses to make ends meet. She was cleaning a home in Fort Mill around three years ago when her van broke down. Shes been here ever since, she said.
Landires lived in a mobile home for about six months and an apartment on Banks Street briefly, but said shes never been able to hang onto a home because she isnt able to pay utility bills or rent, and because of family problems that have caused her to be unwelcome in some places.
Thats all shell say about that.
She doesnt qualify for disability, she said, although she has stomach problems that make getting and keeping a job difficult.
In the months shes been living in the downtown area, she has made friends with Donnie Bowen, a homeless man who calls downtown Fort Mill home. They hang out outside a local gas station some days.
He likes to have company, Landires said.
He isnt as lucky as she is, she said, and doesnt have a place to store canned goods and bread, so she brings him sandwiches on occasion.
Theyre often joined by three other homeless people, she claims, though she isnt certain where they sleep at night.
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