Standing up to poverty

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC)- Lines of people covered the grounds of North Charleston's Army Park just after dawn Thursday.

At a time when most people head off to work, hundreds stood waiting for their chance to receive  free services at the annual Stand Down Against Homelessness.

"I was prescribed pain pills and then I was took off pain pills when I came home I didn't know where to go," said Christopher Mincey, who served in Afghanistan, as he explained the addiction he developed which left him nearly homeless.

Across the room from him stands Crystal Sesco, a mother of four children suffering through the tough economy.

"It's really hard to find a job that works with the hours of the school because I can't afford daycare," said Sesco. "My husband barely makes enough to pay the bills."

Each story has its place here at Armory Park in North Charleston, but this crisp, fall  day is a chance for those barely getting by to get free clothing, medical attention and for those stricken with diabetes, foot care.

"We really planned for up to 3,000," said Tonya Lobbestael of the Charleston VA Medical Center discussing the expected turnout. "Here's the thing, I hope we don't see that many because then that would tell us that maybe folks are really getting off the streets, but unfortunately in this economy that's probably not going to be the case."

Free haircuts are among the services offered and have become the highlight of the event for many who attend.

"You need a haircut to look for work, to present yourself for work,  and that's what it does to the people," said Howard Boyd, a volunteer barber.

For Crystal Sesco, relief comes in the smallest way as she opens her bag of complimentary toiletries.

"My little ones (are) like, 'Mommy we'll just go to the store and buy it,' and I'm like, 'I don't have the money to buy it.' It kind of hurts my feeling and my pride but just bulk up and do it.'"

Goodwill industries and the VA Medical Center sponsor The Stand Down Against Homelessness. The event  continues Friday from 8 am to noon  at Armory Park.

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