In 1989, a group of six was gathered for lunch and the conversation turned to the needs of the people experiencing homelessness. From this gathering, what is now known as United Housing Connections was born. These six people reached out to the community and became a group of twelve who continued to meet and discuss this underserved population and how their needs could best be met.
In 1990, by-laws were written and adopted and, with the group of twelve supported by volunteers, the idea of a coalition gained momentum. For several months the group struggled through the ups and downs of development and in 1992 Barbara Taggart brought leadership and expertise to the group. Being like-minded, and as a Senior Peace Corps volunteer, Mrs. Taggart offered extensive and intensive experience with homelessness and was available to work with these leaders and volunteers to provide a foundation for what became the Greater Greenville Homeless Coalition.
Mrs. Taggart wrote and received a grant for $300,000.00 for a community capacity building and direct services for the homeless population. Sunbelt Human Advancement REsourses, Inc. (SHARE) was the lead agency and provided office space for a case manager, a counselor, a clerk, and a part-time coordinator. A transitions program for single men was developed and various agencies came together to provide a concentrated effort to address the needs of the homeless. A second grant was received that provided daily outreach to the street homeless. A second case manager was hired and a van was purchased to provide support.
The Greater Greenville Homeless Coalition became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Mrs. Taggart became SHARE’s homeless coordinator on behalf of the coalition. Following Mrs. Taggart, Salvation Army Captain R.C. Fleeman continued to represent the coalition as the homeless coordinator.
In 1995, HUD created the Continuum of Care (COC) competition for monies to provide extensive services for the fight against homelessness and again SHARE led the way in preparing to apply for this grant. The program underwent several changes as many interested parties had input. In 1995, SHARE was granted $2,605,017.00 and Dr. Michael Chesser became SHARE’s program director on behalf of the coalition with a budget of $850,000.00. The balance of the grant was distributed among the other agencies who had joined the coalition in applying for the grant.
At the same time that the organization’s service offerings for the homeless grew, homelessness increased in the Upstate and nation-wide. Dr. Chesser began to look at other counties in the Upstate in which to develop homeless solutions. In 1997, the Greater Greenville Homeless Coalition changed its name to Upstate Homeless Coalition and was awarded a HUD homeless grant for $2.2 million to continue providing services for the homeless.
Upstate Homeless Coalition and partnering agencies were aware that services were not enough. Decent, safe and affordable housing was a necessity. The development of four chapters under the umbrella of Upstate Homeless Coalition and comprised of agencies from each of the thirteen counties served by the coalition was instrumental in providing information regarding the needs of the homeless in each county. The Greenville/Laurens chapter, meeting in Greenville, the AOP (Anderson, Oconee, Pickens) chapter, meeting in Anderson, the CUS (Cherokee, Union, Spartanburg) chapter, meeting in Spartanburg and the GAMES (Greenwood, Abbeville, McCormick, Edgefield, Saluda) chapter meeting in Greenwood, are all a part of the COC Advisory Board and are the recipients of monies provided by the COC. Both housing and services are provided for senior citizens, persons with physical and mental challenges, singles and families needing permanent and transitional housing to regain independence, and affordable permanent housing for a population with low or very low income.
Adding housing counseling to its services between 2009 and 2015, Upstate Homeless Coalition was able to prevent housing loss to a population vulnerable to economic highs and lows. Partnering with SCHelp and offering budgeting and home ownership counseling, Upstate Homeless Coalition was instrumental in aiding all populations in becoming responsible renters and home owners.
In 2013, Upstate Homeless Coalition again changed its name, now to United Housing Connections. Still evolving, and as the Continuum of Care for Upstate South Carolina, United Housing Connections is continuing its advocacy, housing development, and supportive services to Upstate residents. Continuing partnerships with local, state and government agencies are providing leadership and stability for an under served population.
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