For minister, feeding the homeless is a call to service - - Columbia, South Carolina

For minister, feeding the homeless is a call to service


You may be sitting comfortably in your home right now, but hundreds in the Midlands -- men, women, and children -- do not have a place to call their own.

Many of Columbia's homeless live in shelters while others sleep on the streets.

The latest statistics estimate there are 1,500 homeless people in Richland County. That's a quarter of the total number of homeless people across the state. 

Often we drive by without a second thought about what that person's story is or how he or she ended up on the street. But the fact is homelessness is rising across the state.

There are several great programs out there, but there's one ministry that meets every week to serve a greater purpose.

Every Wednesday night in Finlay Park, close to 200 of Columbia's homeless are fed.

"We treat them with respect and love them because I don't think much of society does," said Scott Schull, the organizer of Project 153.

Schull helps organize and minister. For him, it's a call to service.

"We do what we do because of what Christ did for us," said Schull.

Food, prayer, music, haircuts, Project 153, as it's called, provides basic necessities to a community that continues to grow. The homeless population in the state has increased nearly 30 percent since 2011.

"We found this year that half of the people we surveyed were actually still on the street," said Anita Floyd with the South Carolina Coalition for the Homeless.

Floyd says the solution is "prevention" -- affordable housing and employment with liveable wages.

"That is much more effective, much cheaper and much better solution than allowing them to tumble into homelessness because then it's a lot harder to lift them out," said Floyd.

We spoke with a woman who's been living on the streets for the last 2 1/2 years after losing her job and home.

"My spot now, I sleep on the concrete and that's rough on your body, but it's just been raining and the ground's wet," said the woman.

Her story is not unique.

"You have some folks who have problems with drugs and alcohol, you have some folks who have problems with mental illness, you have a lot of folks who are just down on their luck," said Schull. "Men, women, black, white, it's across the board."

Life is day by day. Shelter and food are not promised. But Wednesdays, Project 153 seeks to serve the stomach and the soul.

"They help us out so we don't starve and we can make it to the next meal or the next day," said Dennis Kline, who has been homeless for two years.

"Well, you're not going to give up," said one homeless woman. "You're gonna survive. You're gonna survive. That's what you have to do."

In the winter time, Project 153 provides clothing and blankets. It is based out of Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, but more than 15 churches are represented through the volunteers.

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