National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held each year the week before Thanksgiving. As we begin to think about what we are thankful for, it is the perfect time to share our compassion with our neighborhoods who are hungry and homeless. And it is an opportunity to clarify the perception of who is hungry and who is homeless in our state.

Homelessness in South Carolina
According to the South Carolina Coalition for the Homeless, there are 6,035 homeless individuals in the state; 1,026 of them are children, 405 are under the age of five. Approximately 27% of the homeless population are families, 17% are children. Contrary to the misconception, the Coalition reports that substance abuse accounts for only 10% of the state’s homeless population, mental illness accounts for 16%.

How does one become homeless? While there is not one single cause that leads to homelessness, there are several contributing factors including loss of job, natural disasters, divorce, domestic violence, and illness. The one factor that SCCLF works to address is high housing/rental costs. We know the domino effect housing affordability has on various aspects of living. When someone cannot afford their monthly housing costs, they are likely to lose their housing and therefore, jeopardize their employment.

Hunger in South Carolina
As a state where agribusiness is the number one industry, one would think there was enough food to go around. But that is not the case in South Carolina. According toFeeding America, 18% of the state’s overall population, and 28% of the population under the age of 18, are food insecure. The state’s largest cities have alarming rates of food insecurity: Rock Hill has the highest rate with 18% overall, 30% child; Charleston, North Charleston, and Mt. Pleasant report rates of 16% overall, 24% child; and Columbia rounds out the top five with a rate of 17% overall and 20% child. Allendale County reports the highest rates of food insecurity in the state with 36% overall, 40% child.

Be Part of the Solution
As we reflect on the issues of homelessness and hunger, it is important to keep one thing in mind: it could be you. You could be the one who wakes up one day unable to pay the bills, go to work, put food on your table. It could be you who loses your home and has nowhere else to turn for shelter or food. It could be you visiting the homeless shelter or the local food bank. What would you do? Where would you turn for help? Is your organization on the list of local resources?

Access to healthy, affordable foods is a focus of our advocacy and lending efforts, and creating affordable housing for all has always been our priority. We are making great strides at strengthening underserved and disadvantaged communities across our state, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. To learn more about how we are creating opportunity, please contact Michelle Mapp at michelle@sccommunityloanfund.org.