Jessica and Louis have been married for 7 years. 5 years ago, before they were homeless, they had a baby born with a heart condition. The death of that child, only 2 hours after birth, was the moment their life fell apart. At the time, they lived with family in Pennsylvania who were unable to process such devastating loss and blamed Jessica and Louis for the death of their baby. The couple left PA to start a new life in SC and overcome their grief, but their plans didn’t work out and they soon became homeless. In 2018, they were expecting again, living out of their car for the entire pregnancy. Mason was born premature, and placed in the NICU, with the same heart condition as Jessica and Louis’ deceased child. When Jessica and Louis came to our shelter, Mason had just had open heart surgery at three months old. Prior to this they were staying at another shelter, but were only allowed to stay 90 days. Despite their son’s situation, no exception was made and their family was back on the streets again.
Things started to look up for Jessica, Louis, and Mason after their case manager connected them with mental health therapy, a social security advocate, a marriage counselor, and signed them up for housing programs. For the first time in years, they had a safe and consistent place to stay with the resources that they needed to secure a better life for themselves and their son. During their stay with us, 4 potential apartments for their family fell through, some of them due to the uncertainty of COVID-19. After months of waiting, Jessica, Louis, and Mason finally moved into their apartment, the first place of their own in more than 5 years. Thanks to their case manager, on-going services have been set up to help them continue to be successful.
Rebecca, 64, grew up in East Hampton, NY before coming to Myrtle Beach almost 30 years ago. After moving to North Carolina for a marriage that ended in divorce, she came back to the beach and began renting a room. Paying $400 a month to rent a room and doing housework to make ends meet, Rebecca lost her housing when her landlord decided to move and sell the property she was living in. Hopeful, she found another job and planned to use her social security check to keep a roof over her head at a hotel. That didn’t work out, as Rebecca’s living expenses soon exceeded her income and she became homeless. “I was out on the beach for almost two weeks with my luggage… I would sleep all day on the beach and then get up and walk the beach all night long to keep safe.” A community member noticed Rebecca was living on the beach, took her to the Police Station, and the MBPD connected her with the Woman’s Shelter.
After coming to our shelter in May 2019, Rebecca immediately got to work getting a reinstated ID, applying for food stamps, and getting a part-time job. Within a few months, she moved into Snug Harbor, our transitional living program for women. Although she made tremendous progress in a short period of time, Rebecca wasn’t without her setbacks. In the spring of 2020, she was unable to start a new job due to COVID-19. That job ultimately fell through, but after a few months she was able to regain employment. Of her challenges she says; “my life has not been a bed of roses but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. In August 2020 after working and waiting several months, Rebecca moved out into her own apartment. “I’ve never lived by myself… Even now that I’m in my 60s, I wanted a better life and a place to call my own, something to be proud of. Now, having successfully escaped homelessness, her desire is that others will do the same. “I cannot stress enough how grateful I am for your program. The program does work if you work the program… A lot of people don’t know better because all they know is the streets. It’s hard to break the cycle, that vicious cycle. I’m proving that you can do it. I know the struggle I went through. But I made it, I’m proud, and I thank New Directions.”
In 2017, Martin Rogers lived a normal life. The US Army veteran was born and raised in Asheville, NC and lived there with his wife and child until a nasty divorce abruptly left his life in pieces. Known by his friends as “Marty”, he left the mountain city he had loved and called home for most of his life in search of a fresh start. A friend of his invited him to Myrtle Beach to join him in starting a new business, a custom motorcycle shop. Things were looking up, and Marty moved to the area in 2018. But shortly after moving here, Marty was left stranded by his friend and business partner. He got another job and an apartment, but the high cost of living in the Grand Strand combined with his child support payments put him in financial jeopardy. Even working full-time, his income was not enough to cover his rent, basic living expenses, and child support, resulting in him becoming homeless.
Upon entering our shelter, Marty started working on his goals: getting a job, a replacement ID, and saving money for housing just to name a few. And not only was he working on his goals, but Marty became instrumental at the Men’s Shelter. He helped with The Rolling Forward Project in the beginning stages of the program, repairing donated bicycles to increase transportation options for clients to be able to get to work and resources. Marty soon started helping in the kitchen, which became a passion for him and later, a career.
Things were going well for Marty, with his ID reinstated, a quick promotion to full-time employment with the food service company, and saving money for housing, until early March 2020, when he was laid off due to COVID-19. Although his circumstances took a turn for the worse, Marty kept his spirits high and made himself available to New Directions when we needed him the most. When the shelter self-quarantined during the spring and volunteers, case managers, and our kitchen manager worked from home, Marty was put in charge of the kitchen and oversaw the meals.
During his time at New Directions, Marty has helped cook an estimated 300+ meals at New Directions for Men, helping serve hundreds of clients as well as those in the community in need of a meal. In August 2020 with a new job working for a security company and having saved some money, Marty has moved on to transitional housing and afterward will move into his own place. He says that his time in our shelter has “been an adventure”. In his own words, “It’s time to close the book, turn to another chapter… Being here I have learned that I can stand on my own two feet”. We asked Marty what advice he would give to someone experiencing homelessness. He said, “Stay strong and believe in yourself, because nobody can change anything but you”. Though he was a bit nervous about moving out on his own, his kind and helpful disposition along with these words of wisdom, will help see him through.