CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It is no surprise the coronavirus is impacting the shelters and services designed to help people experiencing homelessness. Not only is The Navigation Center in Charleston seeing nearly 50 percent more clients than last year, they are also seeing a spike in a certain type of people walking through their doors.
“We are seeing an increase in single mothers and children,” said Marie Elena Roland, CEO of The Navigation Center. “A lot them are coming in as referrals from other agencies like My Sister’s House. . . We are averaging three or four families a week.”
Roland says this is a multi-level problem caused by the coronavirus.
“The kids have been out of school since February. Those mothers don’t have childcare in order to take care of their children so they can go to work,” Roland said. “It has put them in a position where they can’t pay their bills.”
On top of that, Roland says several women’s shelters have shut down or reduced services because of the difficulty in operating during the pandemic. Making matters worse, families are harder to place in temporary or permanent housing because of the sheer number of people and the amount of money need to support them.
“We are seeing families that are nine or four or five people,” Roland said.
The center is working on several new ideas to find housing opportunities and to give those families the structure they need to make sure they never experience homelessness again. Roland says the key is to get the community involved in supporting each other.
“We want to build that community for them and start that support,” Roland said, explaining how they have partnered with various churches in the area to help people out of homelessness and into new homes. “We are having a church adopt a family. . . those churches will go and get them set up and get to know the client.”
Roland says the adoption by a church community helps clients move away from needing The Navigation Center by acting as a support system.
“Maybe the client doesn’t have a faith foundation but that’s okay,” Roland said. “The churches are there just to help them know what community services are around.”
Housing is the biggest concern, but with the school year starting soon the center is hoping to help students with school supplies.
“Even though they are not all going to school physically, let’s get them all a backpack and school supplies,” Roland said. “We want to be able to support them and continue their education.”
Mothers are also in need of supplies of their own. Roland says some moms are looking to try and work from home while their children are virtually learning but they need computers themselves. Roland says she is working on getting computer donations so those mothers do not have to pay for childcare.