Across South Carolina, adults in need can find services or shelters to help them get back on their feet — resources for families, foster care for children, and government programs for those living below the poverty line. While most programs target children or adults, Pendleton Place is looking to target the population in the middle — youth aging out of foster care.

PENDLETON PLACE YOUTH RESOURCE CENTER OPENS

On July 15, Pendleton Place opened its Youth Resource Center — a facility where anyone ages 17 to 24 can drop in to do laundry, eat, take a hot shower, use the computer lab, and relax from 2-5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Jed Dews, executive director of Pendleton Place, said the goal is not only to provide youth with basic resources, but to have them come back for mentoring and help them formulate a life plan.

“We hope that they will opt in to case management — that’s kind of the next level of service, to work with an independent-living specialist on a life plan,” Dews said.

The program isn’t solely for youth aging out of foster care, but Dews said many of the young adults who end up on the street often come from state services.

“We started to see the connection between foster care and youth homelessness, and it’s really scary the number of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 who are literally homeless — living on the streets or in places not really meant for human habitation, or in many cases doubled up,” Dews said. “What was even more shocking was the number of those young people who are homeless and who came out of state systems like the foster care system, juvenile justice system, or both.”

According to information released from United Housing Connections, the 2019 Homeless Point in Time Count showed 1,401 homeless people in the Upstate on a given day in January — an increase of 216 homeless people from 2018.

Dews said that in 2018, about 90 of the Upstate’s homeless were youth.

EXPANDING YOUTH SERVICES 

The organization started looking to expand its youth services in 2017, and Dews said the Youth Resource Center that opened last week is just the start of that expansion. In the fall, Pendleton Place plans on opening eight homeless shelter beds for anyone ages 17 to 24 living on the streets.

“We’ve been projecting that we would serve anywhere from a third to half of those,” Dews said. “I think that we could serve as high as about 45 youth a year.”

Josh Crocker, an independent-living specialist with Pendleton Place, said once you know how to spot a homeless teenager, you start seeing them around — many don’t fit the stereotype of a homeless person with tattered clothes.

“The truth is, they’re just regular folks. Most of these are people who you would never think [are homeless] — some of them are going to school, or own a vehicle and are sleeping in their vehicle, so it’s really hard to spot,” Dews said.

In 2017-18, Greenville County Schools had 1,084 students considered homeless through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which includes students doubled up with families but not students living in homes in deplorable conditions.

Pendleton Place is hoping more young adults will hear about their services now that its new center is open — the organization is also looking for volunteers.

“We’ve been working with some school social workers with Greenville County,” Crocker said. “They’re aware of our services and what we’re doing and partnering with us, and also helping us keep an eye out or referring folks to us who they know would qualify for our services.”

PENDLETON PLACE ORGANIZATION

The organization currently houses 10 teenage girls, typically ages 15 to 21, at a time in its residential foster care home called the Smith House, but the homeless shelter would be open to both males and females and would serve as a temporary emergency shelter.

Pendleton Place was initially founded in 1975 to provide residential foster care through its Smith House program, but it has since expanded to include resources for foster care families, child welfare, and youth in need. The center also receives funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a rapid re-housing program to help people initially pay rent until they can find a job.

“We want to meet their basic needs and hopefully they’ll keep coming back here,” Dews said.

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