Read the original GoUpstate post here.
Leaders in Spartanburg’s faith community met Wednesday morning at Fernwood Baptist Church to learn about homelessness in the area, the challenges causing the homeless population to grow, and what is being done to address the issue.
Beth Rutherford, executive director of the Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network, Karl Rogozenski, regional coordinator of Catholic Charities, CAST director Gloria Close, and Hannah Jarrett, financial stability strategy director with United Way of the Piedmont, shared details about the growing problem with pastors, priests, rabbis and other community leaders at the event, hosted by the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance.
One of the most significant obstacles in addressing the issue in the area, Close said, is that there isn’t one definition of homelessness. Her organization deals specifically with children who are living in motels for extended periods of time.
Although the people she works with live in terrible conditions and are often uncertain whether they’ll have a roof over their heads day to day, Close said, they don’t meet certain definitions of homelessness but qualify under others.
Rutherford said even using the narrow definition of homelessness set down by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it’s nearly impossible to accurately count the number of people who qualify in the county. Every year, nonprofits in the area work to tally the homeless population during a week in January, and Rutherford said it’s not possible to truly gauge the size of the group.
“Whatever number you hear about the actual number of homeless people in Spartanburg, multiply that at least by 10,” she said.
“It would be a multi-service center with showers, laundry, storage, mail slots where they can receive mail, a computer center where they can get online if they need to apply for jobs,” he said. “… We’re still in the process of getting all the details in line, but we’re anticipating we’ll be able to start serving the community this year.”
Rutherford said she was encouraged by the turnout Wednesday morning and hopeful interest in the issue will continue to grow.
“I love seeing more and more people in the community coming to the table about homelessness,” she said. “We’ve always had a homeless problem, but now people are seeing it, and I would love to see more engagement.”