Agencies helping Myrtle Beach homeless to soon have central processing location

Needy people looking for services at any of the numerous help organizations locally soon will be directed to Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach to be entered into a new system.

Organizations have worked for the past year to find ways to better help the homeless and others in need, Mary Jeffcoat told Myrtle Beach City Council members during a workshop Tuesday. Jeffcoat has facilitated meetings among service providers, local governments, churches and others since the Myrtle Beach City Council resolved last fall to spearhead the group.

A critical issue was the maintaining of a centralized database, intake process and case management system, she said. And Helping Hand will take on those tasks.

“We’re delighted to do this work, because we basically do this now,” said Lane Smith, Helping Hand board member from Trinity Episcopal Church.

Smith told the council they would need to add one staff member who would interview people going into the system, enter their information and create an identification card.

“They would be familiar with all of the sources of help for the needy in Myrtle Beach and decide who best can help them, and refer them there,” Smith said.

Smith told council the employee would work 35 hours a week at $15 an hour, making about $30,000 a year. He asked the council to grant the coalition and Helping Hand $15,000 for the first half of next year to pay for the additional employee.

If the council decides to appropriate the money for the employee, it could happen as early as the next meeting, which will be held Jan. 8.

Murrells Inlet resident Antonio Mullinax and his family stopped by Helping Hand on Wednesday to find out what type of help they could get. He said he and his wife, Whitney, both were laid off from their jobs about a month ago. Whitney Mullinax was working at McDonald’s and Antonio Mullinax worked doing property maintenance.

The couple and their 18-month-old son, Isaac, have been living with Antonio Mullinax’s mother – who herself only works part time. They drove from Murrells Inlet in a car given to them by his mother.

“She told us to come and see how they could help us,” Whitney Mullinax said.

Smith told the council the goal is to be able to track those who receive help from multiple sources and make sure people aren’t abusing the system.

That mindset came after Robert Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help,” visited the Myrtle Beach area, Jeffcoat said. Lupton urges charities to help empower the people they help by helping them become accountable.

Jeffcoat cited examples in the Myrtle Beach area, including First United Methodist Church’s shift from giving away clothes at their clothes closet to opening a thrift-type store charging people anywhere from 5 cents to $5. She said the local Salvation Army has people who come in asking for toys for their children and work for it by spending a few hours ringing the bell in front of businesses.

“We’re moving them from dependency to, hopefully, self-sufficiency,” Jeffcoat said.

Councilman Mike Lowder said he was pleased with the shift that the organizations in the coalition was taking.

“I’ve always been in favor of a hand up versus a handout,” he said. “If you want something, you have to work to get it.”

Additionally, in July 2013 Street Reach, the Center for Women and Children and the unnamed domestic violence agency that will replace Citizens Against Spouse Abuse will combine resources and form one operating board, operating under one 501c3.

Jeffcoat said there will be some transitional bylaws put into place, but eventually the operating board will serve to handle the administrative work of all three organizations. She said they will continue to invite other organizations to join their new 501c3.

Mayor John Rhodes said he was happy to see the organizations working together.

“You had to overcome the scariest word – and that’s change,” he said.