Florence organization combat rising homeless numbers

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Horry and Florence County have the highest homeless population in the Pee Dee.

According to the 2016 Eastern Carolina Homelessness Organizations (ECHO) point- in- time count 1,322 people were homeless in the Pee Dee.

The 2017 point- in- time numbers have not been released but rough estimates show there could be about 1,900 homeless people in the 11 Pee Dee counties.

When Shirley King moved back to Florence she lived in a homeless shelter.

“It does not matter they are going to take care of you,” explained King. “Things were really different back in the day. But things have really changed in Florence. I am proud to be here right now.”

King says shelters and resources from the Lighthouse Ministries helped her find a place to live.

“They did a lot, you know, for me to get on my feet much faster and get my own place.”

Lighthouse Ministries Executive Director Cecilia Meggs says each month the First Friday Homeless Connect Event brings more than 30 agencies together to help homeless or working poor people.

The goal is to connect homeless people with health care, food and hygiene products.

Meggs said the ECHO point- in- time count numbers vary based on factors like weather and volunteer availability.

“We can only capture a one day picture of the homeless,” said Meggs. “What we find where the numbers are skewed. Some people don’t want to talk to you. Some people do not want to give you their information. If they [a volunteer] can’t get the information we cannot count them.”

The homeless population numbers are often much lower than estimations based on the general population.

“It just doesn’t give us the good numbers. Actually we have estimated over the years in Florence County we have 400- 600 homeless people based on the general population,” said Meggs.

Meggs says different agencies in the Pee Dee are brainstorming ways to make the count more accurate in hopes of getting more funding in the future.