Group fighting homelessness pushing statewide law to help those in need

Group fighting homelessness pushing statewide law to help those in need

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Between eight and 17,000 people in South Carolina experience homelessness on any given day, according to estimates from the U.S. Census.

State representative Wendell Gilliard of Charleston and local supporters are now pushing for a new law to get helpful information to the homeless.

The group met with Governor Nikki Haley in hopes of winning her support.

"The way to address homelessness is people working together," said Anthony Haro, Executive Director of the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition.

Haro has been working with Gilliard on House Bill 4358.

Their goal is to make it a requirement for county offices to publish and distribute documents, listing all services where homeless or needy people can go for help.

"Poverty levels in South Carolina, we estimate about 53,000 people experience homelessness at least once over a year," said Haro.

Haro has also proposed an amendment to the bill to create an online database of services available in the community.

"The shelter isn't necessarily the only option for people experiencing homelessness," said Haro.

Haro says it's vital to enhance the way people are helped in the state because homelessness affects all ages.

"As of March 1st, our total came to 606 students homeless and displaced," said Sonya Jones, Homeless Education Liaison for the Charleston County School District.

Jones says the number is going up on a weekly basis.

"Our job is to ensure that they get provided the resources and the additional academic support that they need," said Jones.

Jones says a statewide resource like documents or an online database is good for families who are going through unstable times.

"There are a lot of families out there that are struggling financially due to the loss of income, job, and layoffs," said Jones, "So having this document in place, in all the counties will be very beneficial to families to help them locate shelter and food and clothing."

Supporters of House Bill 4358 are also hoping law enforcement on the street would have access to the database.

The say it would be another way to get information to those in need. The law will need final approval from the Governor to pass.

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