Transportation and affordable housing go hand in hand.
At United Housing Connections we do our best to place people who do not have their own method of transportation in homes close to a bus station. Through Greenlink, many of our clients are able to stay employed, go to school and access services. However, the hours and routes of Greenlink are limited and often unable to best assist their passengers. Greenlink has begun work to tackle these issues, but what they are looking for now is community support as they begin to pursue funding and backing for their upcoming projects. Continue reading to find out why public transportation is so important and how you can help Greenlink provide the best services possible.
Less than a month ago, Greenville found out that over 150 residents of the Economy Inn off Augusta Rd had been told to leave their home in less than a day when the Economy Inn was condemned. Through this terrible situation, United Housing Connections was able to meet Craig at the Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church. While dropping off work clothes that were selflessly donated by the Greenville community, Craig eagerly helped organize the clothes and shared his story. He had moved to Greenville and finally found a home that he could afford at the Inn. However, he soon lost it with their abrupt closure. Craig was set to start a new job the day that we met him, but he had not yet found a home and was staying at the church, where he is also a member. He explained that although he’d like to live close to the church, he was looking at apartments closer to his job because he worked the night shift and couldn’t rely on Greenlink to get him there late at night.
The apartment he decides on has to be affordable and close enough to his job so he can walk. This means living further away from the family and support system he has found at the church and settling for an apartment that isn’t his first or even fifth choice. But Craig is happy to have a job and hopeful about finding somewhere to live.
However, we have to ask ourselves as a community, is allowing Craig live further away from the only support system he knows in Greenville the best way to ensure his success?
Many in our community are pursuing higher education and investing in themselves by working towards their degrees. Greenville Technical College serves over 15,000 students in Greenville, many of whom must also keep jobs to pay for their education and cost of living. With all of these costs, it may be hard for them to keep a reliable car so they rely on Greenlink’s Route 1 to be running on time and frequently. But, for those who work a typical 9 to 5 schedule, Greenville Tech has many evening courses available which last until 7:20 to 10:00 at night. These students can’t take the bus home because service ends at 6:30 at night so they must work even more hours and stretch themselves even further to afford a car or give up on their dream of furthering their education.
Food deserts are defined as parts of the country that do not have fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods available, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.
This map of food deserts around Greenville County depicts areas that are low-income neighborhoods where a supermarket is over 1 mile away. Typically, these residents do not have their own car and rely on Greenlink to get to the store. As noted above, Greenlink does not run on Sundays and has limited evening hours, making runs to the grocery store nearly impossible. Below is an interactive map of the Greenlink bus routes, which would help many of these low-income residents reach stores if the hours of service were more conducive to their off work hours.
With the help of Piedmont Health Foundation, Greenlink is working to create a five-year plan for expansion, calculate the costs for each improvement and identify potential funding sources.
Below are basic action steps as proposed by the Director of Public Transportation, Gary Shepard, during their talk at Beer and Napkins on February 13th.
Replace Old Bus Models with Electric Buses
Replace three buses that should have been replaced in 2014 with electric buses.
Extend Service Hours to the Existing System
Add New Routes
Greenlink plans to add routes to expand service areas to Greer, Travelers Rest and Fountain Inn, to add routes that go across town and to add Commuter Routes from park and ride lots from key corridors to downtown.
These updates will be expensive, but are vital to those that rely on Greenlink so while community members seek out funding sources, you can help by voicing your support for these efforts.
1. Go on a Transit Field Trip!
Piedmont Health Foundation has two upcoming Greenlink Field Trips coming up. Catch one of Greenlink’s buses to the Transit Center for a one hour presentation about Greenlink’s operations, changes, and future. The whole experience takes about two hours when including the time spent traveling to and from the Transit Center on a Greenlink bus.
For tickets and more information select a date below:
If you have any questions, dietary restictions, or would like to book a group trip, email Sean Rusnak at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (864) 752-8888.
2. Contact your County and City councilors.
Write or call your County and City councilors to let them know that you think public transit is important in Greenville and that it needs to be funded appropriately.
3. Sign up for our newsletter.
Sign up for the United Housing Connections newsletter here to be updated on opportunities for advocacy, such as County Council meetings where transportation will be discussed. Strength in numbers is so important at these meetings because they show council members that there is a real concern from private citizens in our community.
By becoming an advocate for better public transportation, you are advocating for many Greenville residents to have access to the things they need to survive and to thrive. Your voice is very important to this issue.
As temperatures have dropped well below freezing across most of the United States, social media has been flooded with images of families and friends snuggled together under blankets next to the fire. But families and individuals experiencing homelessness have been left out in the cold as their stories have remained unheard on social media. In truth, it’s hard for many of us to imagine what it would be like to spend our days and nights on the streets when just walking out to our mailbox calls for a heavy coat, hat and gloves.
United Housing Connections is a member of the Upstate Continuum of Care, which reported from their annual Point in Time Count that 1,317 Upstate individuals were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. While these numbers seem considerable, the true scope of homelessness in the Upstate is in fact much larger when we consider that this is a snapshot of data collected from a narrowly defined “homeless” population on a specific date in time. For example, there are many homeless individuals and families that go uncounted because they are temporarily living in hotels or doubled up with family. In reality, 4,700 individuals came through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) in 2016. This number is considered closer to the true number of people experiencing homelessness because it is aggregated data based on those seeking services from homeless providers.
With snow historically falling in Charleston and temperatures for the Upstate predicted to be in the lower teens, where are those experiencing homelessness to go and what can we do to help? In Greenville County, which has the largest homeless population in the Upstate, there are several non-profits that United Housing Connections partners with who offer cold weather shelter beds for when temperatures drop below forty degrees.
The Miracle Hill Greenville Rescue Mission has 100 cold weather shelter beds (this is in addition to the 140 regular shelter beds) and the Shepherd’s Gate shelter in Greenville has 30 cold weather beds for women and 12 cold weather beds for children (that is in addition to the 56 regular shelter beds.) Miracle Hill also has cold weather shelter beds in Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties.
The Salvation Army of Greenville County has 25 cold weather shelter beds. This is in addition to the 143 regular shelter beds for men, women and children and also a substance-abuse rehabilitation program for men.
First, become an advocate for the homeless in our communities. The face of homelessness isn’t a panhandler or a bum. The face of homelessness is a son. It’s a daughter. It’s a veteran. It’s a young adult. It’s a mother. It’s a father. It’s us. As we begin to tell their stories, we change the face of homelessness.
Second, donate to organizations who serve the homeless. Monetary donations are used at the discretion of the organization to best serve the people who walk through their doors. If you would like to donate items, below is a suggested list collected from local organizations need:
You can also donate to the Upstate’s Point in Time Count, which gathers the data mentioned previously. While this data only provides a snapshot, it is vital in informing the public, organizations and policymakers at the local and national level on the makeup of our homeless populations and to track progress in ending homelessness. These numbers help in identifying gaps in services, planning future services, and securing funding for your local organizations. Below is a list of items that are collected to be given out as a small token of appreciation for participants’ time and information. Please drop off donations to United Housing Connections at 135 Edinburgh Ct, Greenville, SC 29607 by January 15th.
Third, you can always volunteer your time with the organizations mentioned here and many others who serve homeless populations. Below are a few of the many volunteering opportunities in Greenville County:
As a member of the Upstate Continuum of Care, United Housing Connections recognizes the importance of everyone in our community working together to make homelessness brief and rare. We don’t just provide the homeless their needs for the day. We provide the dignity of housing that is necessary for every person to follow the pathway of success. But without our partners, most of the people we serve would never make it through our front doors. As the temperatures drop, please consider helping an organization in your community that serves those who need shelter and help the most. And as always, provide them with a path to lasting housing by connecting them with United Housing Connections.
After spending her childhood in foster care, Jasmine* eventually aged out of the system and found herself in the Upstate. With no home, job, or support, she found herself struggling to get by on the streets for years.
Recently, she found herself pregnant and living out of her car. Desperate for help with a child on the way, Jasmine found UHC. She was connected with her case manager, Rachel Reed, who ultimately helped her get into an apartment just a few months shy of giving birth. Without finding housing, Jasmine most likely would’ve had to give up her baby.
Jasmine’s journey has been long and difficult, but has taken a turn in the right direction thanks to UHC. Now Jasmine has a roof over her head, landed a job, received a scholarship, and is hoping to start school soon. She also reconnected with her sister who she had lost touch with in foster care. Most importantly for Jasmine, she is thankful to have safe and affordable housing to raise her child. Though her journey with UHC is just beginning, we are excited to stand beside Jasmine as she takes steps towards independence.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of United Housing Connections’ clients and those involved.
Being a single mom comes with what seems like an endless number of hurdles, but there are some hurdles that are just too high to get over alone. Anna came to United Housing Connections after a time spent in jail while also suffering from drug addiction. She was facing an open DSS case in an attempt to regain custody of her son, John, and mounting restitution, probation and court fees.
Anna’s case manager, Cindy Coxie, connected her with affordable housing and resources to help her reach her goals of reuniting with John, becoming sober, improving her health by losing weight, and providing for her family. With counseling, Anna was able to face the traumatic events of her past that later lead to her drug addiction and struggles with weight. She was also able to regain custody of her sweet son, John, and has paid off the majority of her legal fees. Today, Anna is sober, has lost nearly 200 pounds, has been promoted from an associate to the manager of McDonald’s, and is able to fill her home with furniture and toys for John.
In facing what seemed like impossible situations of addiction, loss of custody and mounting debt, Anna was able to overcome and succeed. She has been part of United Housing Connections’ Permanent Supportive Housing program for four years now and continues to tell Cindy about all the progress she has been able to make because she was given an affordable home. Anna’s driving force is to provide for her son and give him the best future that she can. When we reflect on where she was four years before entering the program, we can all be proud of the life she has created for herself and John and look forward to what is next for them.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of United Housing Connections’ clients and those involved.