GEORGETOWN — A United Way grant is funding a collaborative program between the Georgetown NAACP branch and other nonprofits to help residents get by in the face of systemic problems.
A flier for the program advertises emergency housing assistance, with listed services encompassing eviction counseling and mediation between landlords and tenants among others.
But there is always more help to be offered, and the housing assistance program, run as a collaboration with the Georgetown NAACP branch, sees needs of all kinds. Branch President Marvin Neal recalled a recent trip to Walmart for paper towels, diapers and feminine hygiene products.
"There's just so much that we're handling right now," Neal said.
The program operates in Georgetown out of the Front Street basement office of Access Alliance Insurance Group, of which Ebony Hughes is founder and CEO. It is funded through December through a $500,000 grant from the United Way Association of South Carolina.
"We're also providing them with additional services that we can help them apply for," said Hughes, who is president of 7 Dimensions of Health, an outreach nonprofit that collaborates with the NAACP for social services referrals. "We've partnered up with some other nonprofits because we like to partner with other organizations, as well, to be able to help make the greatest impact. So some of those additional things would include SNAP or EBT for food, Medicaid for health care, senior services, Extra Help, and also resource finders."
The program boils down to helping people get by, Hughes said, but she said the problems they try to help residents face are systemic.
"It's just absolutely amazing seeing the amount of people that have come out," Hughes said. "We've probably served well over 200 people just in three weeks, really."
The number becomes more impressive when considering that the program has operated mostly in the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, dating back to Aug. 10.
"I've heard in the past that, you know, 'We're tired of helping people that don't work or that sit around all day,' and let me tell you, these are working people that are coming in here for help," Hughes said.
Assistance with utility bills is another issue the program addresses. The Georgetown city budget, approved June 16, included utility rate increases of 30 percent for water, 11.5 percent for sewer, 2.4 percent for stormwater and 2.25 percent for electricity in fiscal 2023.
City Administrator Sandra Yúdice wrote in her budget report to the Georgetown City Council that the city had not been addressing rate adjustments incrementally in the past.
"Compound with when someone is already displaced and behind on the rent and still trying to catch up from the COVID-19 impact on families, that's been a huge problem," Neal said. "Water and electrical services and stuff. It's shameful that it happened, but it tells you that when elected officials get elected, they really need to put their finger on the pulse of the community and those that's being affected."
The program will begin serving Williamsburg County beginning on Sept. 21 at Bloomingvale Community Center, before moving to Williamsburg County Library in Kingstree and the Andrews Recreation Center in the following weeks.