North Myrtle Beach’s homeless population is on the rise

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New Directions of Horry County operates transitional shelters for homeless men, women and families in Myrtle Beach.

New Directions of Horry County operates transitional shelters for homeless men, women and families in Myrtle Beach.

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“The large homeless population that is in Myrtle Beach was able to get on the bus for free and ride all the way to North Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach City Manager Mike Mahaney said at a meeting. council on July 6.

Mayor Marilyn Hatley and city spokesperson Donald Graham said Mahaney was referring to a Coast RTA free policy in place for the past two years, which has quadrupled the number of homeless people in the city. the city.

“Mr. Mahaney mentioned the fact that since last year there has been no charge for homeless people to ride Coast RTA, and we have seen an influx of homeless people since this program was put in place. place,” Hatley said.

In 2020, Horry County had the highest homeless population in South Carolina with 807 sheltered and unsheltered people, according to a state report.

New Directions CEO Kathy Jenkins said only customers receive bus tickets through her organization so caseworkers can check where they are.

“I don’t really know why someone who is homeless would go from Myrtle Beach to North Myrtle Beach when services are unavailable,” she said.

The remarks came near the end of a closely watched city council meeting in which Mahaney showed police body camera footage of a meeting with the owner of a local business fined for have installed beach equipment rented without excess.

During deliberations, a resident asked if North Myrtle Beach had any regulations regarding people staying overnight on public beaches, prompting Mahaney to explain the laws and then mention an increase in the homeless population. shelter.

It is illegal for anyone to sleep on the sand in Horry County or Myrtle Beach from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. North Myrtle Beach prohibits it from 9 p.m. to sunrise.

Graham told The Sun News that city officials counted 20 homeless people in the city in 2019, up from 73 this year.

“The increase in the homeless population in the city of North Myrtle Beach can be directly attributed to the Coast RTA bus transportation system,” Graham said. “The Coast RTA bus transit system provided free transportation that allowed transients to areas that were previously unavailable.”

Coast RTA currently operates 10 fixed routes across Georgetown and Horry counties, serving over 2,000 daily riders. The agency’s finance committee meets on 14 July. Spokeswoman Lauren Morris said RTA would resume fares within weeks at pre-COVID rates of $1.50 for single rides and up to $40 for multi-use passes.

Its Route 17 runs through busy parts of North Myrtle Beach, with stops at Barefoot Landing and Coastal North Town Center.

Further commentary and context details are hard to come by for the public. North Myrtle Beach has stopped streaming its meetings stemming from COVID protocols, and minutes from the July 6 session had not been posted on the city’s website as of July 13.

South Carolina’s open meeting law doesn’t require communities to broadcast their proceedings, but nearly all of North Myrtle Beach’s neighbors do anyway: Conway, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, the Horry County Council, and the Horrys. County Schools among them.

But when it comes to sending people from Myrtle Beach elsewhere, city officials have no role to play, but are working through New Directions and the transit authority, a said spokesman Mark Kruea.

“New Directions provides transportation out of the area for people who want to reconnect with their family support groups. And I believe they use city-provided funding for that — especially bus tickets — but that’s not a common thing,” Kruea said. “And we certainly don’t send people to nearby communities through Coast RTA or any other means.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated

This story was originally published July 14, 2022 5:00 a.m.

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