PICKENS COUNTY — Pickens County does not have a cold weather shelter for the homeless and as a result, local charities are depended upon to help bridge the gap between resources and those in need.
Groups such as the United Way, Family Promise of Pickens County and The Dream Center, not to mention soup kitchens and other outreach ministries, do all they can but are limited as to the services they can provide, leaving a need for the county as a whole.
“We are a huge resource for those who are looking for employment, education, resume assistance, and some of the services needed to make it possible to get a hand up,” said Chris Wilson, executive director of The Dream Center. “We do see a lot of those who are homeless and we don’t turn them away, we just have to find the assistance they need. Once that is taken care of, getting some kind of shelter for them, we then do all we can to help them find a job and get back on their feet.”
But organizations without the ability to provide shelter are limited in the scope of what they can provide and the options for those in need of shelter especially during cold weather are almost nonexistent in Pickens County.
One group that does provide some shelter options is Family Promise of Pickens County, but they are limited by the criteria of their program, which requires at least one child under the age of 18 to qualify for direct assistance. But that does not mean they do not provide resources.
“We provide assistance to a family unit, whether it is grandparents, parents or a single parent, whoever has custody of the children, and we aren’t a typical shelter,” said Armilla Moore, executive director of Family Promise of Pickens County. “We do take people in but there are certain criteria which must be met and it has to be for a long term stay, not just for one night. We do help when there is an emergency when we can, even when there are no children involved. I recall one call that came in and they didn’t meet our criteria and we were able to put them up in a hotel for awhile.”
Julie Capaldi, director of United Way of Pickens County, may have summed up the risks during this time of year best.
“People living outside are living under a huge risk right now. There are no places to be sheltered in Pickens County during cold weather and that increases the danger for those who are homeless,” Capaldi said. “People are being driven inside and due to legalities or insurance for a lot of those who would like to provide a place, there is no cold weather shelter here. There has been a lot of talk about it but it will not be a quick fix.”
Food banks assist with shortages in necessities, although they remain in need of donations but little in the way of relief from the colder temperatures. In most cases, organizations in Pickens County must refer those in need to local churches and do their best to piece together a solution.
“We have those who come in looking for jobs who are homeless and need a short term place to stay, or possibly don’t meet the criteria for our program and we reach out to our churches,” Moore said. “We have about fifteen churches we work with in cases like this. What happens is we will take four families at a time and they will stay a week at a time with one church and then on to the next, but that is only for a week at a time. They get meals and a place to sleep and then come to us during the day to find work or get their resumes together in order to find a job.”
Capaldi pointed out that while organizations such as United Way in Pickens County are unable to provide shelter, they do offer services during the winter months to help residents avoid economic crises which could lead to a situation of homelessness, such as assistance with utilities.
“There will be a substantial increase in power bills beginning next month and we expect the number of calls for help to go up next month as those bills come in,” Capaldi said. “This does help but not everyone who needs it and unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options out there.”
While there is no cold weather shelter, there are still opportunities to make a positive impact until the situation is remedied. Soup kitchens, food banks, charities, churches, and assistance organizations need blankets, jackets, scarves, shoes, children’s supplies, food donations, monetary donations, and most importantly, volunteers.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.