When the Salvation Army requested a zoning change last year for a half-acre of its nearly 4-acre campus, it ignited opposition that revealed an underlying frustration and resentment among residents toward the nonprofits in Greenville’s “homeless triangle.”
The rezoning was ultimately approved, and neighborhood residents and the Salvation Army and other nonprofits serving the homeless agreed to mediation in an effort to resolve the issues that were uncovered.
That mediation is complete, and the parties agreed on a list of action items as well as longer-term ideas to reduce homelessness in Greenville, according to a final report produced by the nonprofit Upstate Mediation Center.
There are about 1,000 homeless in Greenville County and three of the main service providers — the Salvation Army, Triune Mercy Center, and the Miracle Hill Rescue Mission — are located in that area of downtown, which is a magnet for people who are homeless, including those who are chronically so. “Pop-up” service providers come into the area to hand out food, distribute supplies, and conduct outdoor church services. Some follow a set schedule and others are more spontaneous and unpredictable, the report said.
Some residents expressed concern that service providers would expand their services resulting in more homeless in the area, as well as with nuisance-type behavior such as thefts and public urination. Some residents worried that crime in the area had risen, although law enforcement later said that wasn’t true.
As a result of the mediation, the Salvation Army agreed to increase patrol and trash pickup at its campus on Rutherford Road and its Greenville Family Store, and to limit its community lunch feedings to two days per week. In addition, the Salvation Army agreed to not increase its number of beds beyond the current 143.
Service providers also said they would try to include neighbors on their boards and they would participate in neighborhood organizations. The Greenville Homeless Alliance, a coalition of 40 stakeholders including nonprofits, government, churches and healthcare providers, agreed to coordinate educational programs and events for neighbors in the area as well as continue to monitor the situation.
Long-term solutions to homelessness include permanent supportive housing, an intervention that combines non-time limited affordable housing assistance with support services. Greenville has one such housing complex, Reedy Place, and residents had a 90 percent decrease in emergency room visits, an 87 percent decrease in inpatient behavioral health rehab stays, an 89 percent decrease in EMS transports, and a 92 percent decrease in days and charges for detention centers, the report said. Creating additional similar housing would require public-private partnerships, according to the report.
In addition, the city needs more affordable housing options, the report said. A consultant recently found there are 2,500 fewer affordable housing units than needed for families who earn $20,000 or less annually. “Without sufficient quality, affordable housing options, these households are either living in substandard housing or are severely cost-burdened, and in many cases will eventually be homeless,” the report said.
The report identified a need for more public bathroom facilities and suggested the city and county could explore public-private partnerships with convenience stores. In addition, the report said authorities should consider addressing design issues that enable homelessness such as walls that make it easy for people to hide and sleep.