Veteran homelessness hidden in plain sight in the Midlands

Veteran homelessness hidden in plain sight in the Midlands

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Many of our veterans face challenging times after serving our country.

It's something we'll be taking a closer look at here at WIS as part of our "Year of the Veteran" series. One of the issues impacting our veterans is homelessness and this week United Way of the Midlands is spearheading their annual Point in Time Count, doing just that, getting a more accurate count of how many people are affected by homelessness.

That means getting out to places right near Bush River Road and I-26 where just feet away from the hustle and bustle there's an encampment of homeless people.

It's a well-known area of Columbia, right near the interstate, but very few that pass through know anything about what's sitting right next door – a homeless encampment.

"We are going through the struggle,' said one homeless individual who spoke to WIS. "We are going through hard times. We're just trying to make it. We're trying to live life the best we can."

Down a makeshift path, you'll an unfamiliar territory that some people call home. It's just one of many stops for United Way on their Point in Time Count.

"And this gives them the opportunity to basically voice their opinions on the services they're being provided. It also helps us gauge the effectiveness of the services we provide in our community," says Karina Henry, Homeless Services Coordinator with United Way of the Midlands.

The United Way also has Homeless Outreach Coordinators like Kevin Murphy, a local veteran.

"It's helped to some degree to have that veteran background. It's opened some doors," says Murphy.

But this isn't the case for all vets. Others like Gary, who is a homeless veteran, say they could use a bit more support.

"People don't understand that there's some things you can go through that you just can escape from, but there are people like Kevin here who kind of help you to get through that," he said. 

This group was not intimidated by the camera. They were just happy to see people still care.

United Way partnered with the Salvation Army and One80 Place to provide the homeless with food, socks, and bus passes during the count.

According to the Point in Time Count done last year, there are about 1,200 people affected by homelessness here in the Midlands, and more than 150 of those are veterans. Several of these cases also involve people with children.

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