Grand Strand

Myrtle Beach funds bus tickets for homeless to leave the city and reunite with family

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) - To combat what city officials and homeless advocates say is an influx of homeless travelers from out of state moving to the the Grand Strand, the City of Myrtle Beach started funding a program that covers the cost of bus tickets. 

With resources already slim for the homeless that are from the Grand Strand, getting travelers back home with family is a priority.

"It really started when someone said 'If I could just get home, I have parents, I have a sister, I have a cousin that I left behind," said Kathy Jenkins, Executive Director of New Directions Homeless Shelters.

Last year, Jenkins requested $250,300 from the City of Myrtle Beach to go toward homeless resources, with $15,000 of it going toward 150 bus tickets for people to go back home on Greyhound buses. 

City spokesperson, Mark Kruea, told News13 that the this annual grant to New Directions is funded through a variety of sources like property taxes, business license fees, and other income the city receives. 

"I got a family of five home just last month," said Jenkins. "We discourage people who call first about coming to town especially if they are homeless trying to start over and don't have the resources to do that."

News13 visited food kitchens and homeless shelters to interview homeless people, all from out of state, and some only living here for a month to a few months. All of them choosing Myrtle Beach as a destination  to start a new life, some of them hearing by word of mouth that Myrtle Beach is "homeless friendly."

Zachary Morris, 27, has lived in Myrtle Beach for a month and every night he sleeps somewhere new in town. Out of the five states he has been homeless in, he says already the treatment he has had in Myrtle Beach is different. 

"They give people the ability to move forward, it costs money to eat a meal, it costs money to save even if you're working or panhandling." said Morris, who is currently homeless and originally from South Dakota. 

Others say it was the beach and climate that attracted them.

"You can look around and see they are from everywhere. They're just all kind of working together trying to make it and survive, I came here for the warm weather hoping to start a new career," said Thomas Walters, who is currently homeless and originally from Massachusetts. 

The Myrtle Beach Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team dedicates their time to identifying these homeless, and getting them the resources they need. 

"We see new faces all the time, everyday, it's just beautiful down here, the beautiful weather and everything, the beach attracts them." said Officer Michael Damore, with MBPD.

Kathy Jenkins, with New Directions, says she'll meet homeless who will come to Myrtle Beach with the idea that life will suddenly become easier with work and living near the beach, but that's not always the case and some find themselves stuck.

"In the summer, when the jobs are plentiful, the cost of living is a little bit higher, and in the winter when the cost of living goes down a little bit, the jobs aren't available," said Jenkins. 

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