Darrin Jackson says that he had preconceptions about homeless people.
“The notion is they are on drugs or have some mental disability,” Jackson said.
The only time he ever saw a homeless shelter was on television, he said. “I was really real leery to be honest with you.”
Little did Jackson know he would become homeless.
“It can happen to anybody and it can happen very quickly,” Jackson said. “You would be really surprised about who it can happen to and how quickly it can happen.”
In September 2010, Jackson began to take care of his mother who was struggling with lung cancer.
“I put a camper on a couple of acres of land in Holly Hill at the back of her trailer,” he said. “I took care of her for two years and once she passed, the land went up for repossession due to hospital bills.”
Jackson spent all he had taking care of his mother, and was in need of a place to call home.
“I went to a counselor and she suggested the Samaritan House to me as an option,” he said.
Jackson joined the Orangeburg Samaritan House in April 2013.
The experience has been more than he could have imagined, he said.
“They have provided me with the job I have at Taco Bell. They helped me sign up for the Affordable Care plan, but have also provided me services at the Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Medical Clinic on Holly Street,” Jackson said. “Since I have my job, I have obtained a vehicle, but they did provide transportation for me.”
Jackson is one of many who have reaped the benefits of the Samaritan House of Orangeburg and its participation in the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless and United Way of the Midlands over the past decade.
MACH earlier this week celebrated its 20th anniversary of work to end homelessness.
The nonprofit organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a federal Continuum of Care. MACH serves 14 counties across the state, including The T&D Region. MACH was formed in 1994 by a small group of service providers in Richland County to respond to opportunities for federal housing funds.
Over the past 20 years, MACH has grown to include about 60 member agencies in the Midlands.
The Samaritan House joined MACH in 2004, and it has since benefitted from $101,811 annually in HUD funds via MACH to support the operations of its 20 units of transitional housing for homeless adults. The funding also allows the Samaritan House to provide vouchers to the homeless in scattered sites throughout the area, said Jennifer Moore, senior director of the United Way of the Midlands Financial Stability Council.
Vertelle Poindexter-Jamison, Samaritan House executive director, said being under MACH has helped streamline the funding process.
“United Way is the lead agency and they help to do administrative work,” Poindexter-Jamison said. “They have compiled the applications for the 14-county area. That was beneficial to me.”
Poindexter-Jamison noted that MACH has also helped to consolidate bed availability data for the homeless through its 211 system. The system enables an agency such as the Samaritan House to call within the 14-county MACH region to find out bed availability.
Over the last eight years, the shelter has been able to serve 1,962 people. Of those, about 822 were placed in permanent housing.
Statewide, MACH conducts an annual “homeless count,” which is a census of homeless individuals, Moore said.
MACH has also helped provide housing for the mentally ill in The T&D Region, Moore noted.
The S.C. Department of Mental Health and its sub-grantee, Mental Health of America of South Carolina, received funds supporting permanent housing units for homeless people living with mental illness, she said. “In Orangeburg, there have been 11 units provided and four units provided in Bamberg over the years.”
Jackson is just thankful for the Samaritan House.
“I was in a real bad place before I came here,” he said. “It has been nothing but a great experience.”
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