Van service aims to reach out, help Fort Mill homeless

joverman@fortmilltimes.comJuly 16, 2013 

Jamie talks about being homeless and life in Fort Mill when he was growing up.

FORTMILLTIMES

— A van from Renew Our Community (ROC) will make its way around Fort Mill Thursday afternoon in the first of what organizers hope will be a weekly, long-term effort to help Fort Mill’s homeless.

The van will make stops around the community, including the downtown Fort Mill area and at a homeless camp near Carowinds Boulevard. They aim to pick up homeless people and take them to ROC, a community center in Rock Hill that can link them with services, including substance abuse counseling, soup kitchens and shelters.

ROC volunteers will help with needs ranging from the immediate to long-term, including providing food, assistance getting a driver’s license or ID or help with Internet access and filling out job applications.

ROC board member Bruce McKagan said he isn’t sure what to expect on Thursday. There may be only one person that accepts a ride to ROC, he said, or there could be none at all.

“So whatever happens. If it’s two people, if it’s one, it’s a start,” McKagan said. “If it’s nobody, we’ll say, ‘Why?’ And, ‘What’s wrong with this picture? How do we make it better?’”

McKagan said organizers hope that as more of the community’s homeless people take them up on their offer of help, the word will spread.

“We have to get the word out organically, through them,” McKagan said. “We have them come back saying, ‘That was worth it.’ And that whatever their needs are that we address them.”

ROC has sponsored a series of community meetings in Fort Mill to help determine how to help the homeless population. Right now, there are an estimated six homeless men and women living in the downtown Fort Mill area and five in a camp near Carowinds Boulevard.

Those numbers vary frequently and likely do not count the entire homeless population in the township.

During the community meetings, ROC leaders suggested that the town’s homeless suffer from a disconnect because they lack transportation that can get them to services provided in Rock Hill, including substance abuse counseling, shelters and soup kitchens.

They hope that the transportation service on Thursday will begin to bridge that gap.

This is another step forward in a months-long process to help provide assistance for the homeless, McKagan said.

“I think there has been a slow momentum, but people are starting to see that we’re moving forward and doing things. Thursday is part of this whole plan to start addressing it,” McKagan said.

Another community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Grace Presbyterian Church.

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