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Housing Crisis Hits Black Communities In Mt. Pleasant
3/30/2016 3:58:35 PM

SC Rep. Wendell Gilliard
Staff Reports 

Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard arrived in Washington, D.C. just hours before city officials announced the last remaining remnants of the squatters community known as ‘Tent City’ will be completely dismantled by April 9. Gilliard, along with 12 others went to the nation’s capitol to meet with federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials and S.C. Congressional Delegation members to advocate for the homeless.

And in one of the Tri-County’s most affluent municipalities, former Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall is working to advocate for the development of housing affordable to moderate income families so they don’t become homeless.

Mount Pleasant is the state’s fourth largest city and one of the most affluent.

Homes in the seaside community typically cost upwards of $500,000, Stokes-Marshall said. Although the task force she chairs has its focus on workforce housing affordable to medium income wage earners, she says Mount Pleasant residents in historically Black communities also must be protected.

Most large tracts of undeveloped land in the East Cooper area have been developed, so developers are now targeting historically Black communities where families still own substantial acres of land. In an affluent community like Mount Pleasant, low to moderate income wage earners may be only one financial crisis away from homelessness, Stokes-Marshall said.

Town officials are playing catch-up in terms of affordable housing development, Stokes-Marshall said. Her task force is hoping to come up with some recommendations by the end of the year to help the town address it’s affordable housing needs.

“Hard working people need a decent place to live just like anybody else,” she says.

Gilliard and a contingent of advocates for the homeless went to Washington Tuesday to lobby HUD officials and South Carolina legislators to fund programs that take some of the state’s estimated 6,000-7,000 homeless off the streets into homes. Their goal is similar to that of Mount Pleasant’s task force.

“There’s no comprehensive program to develop affordable housing. Public housing options are backlogged, homeless shelters are backlogged, so we’re seeing the rise of communities like Tent City as alternatives when these people no longer can afford motels,” Gilliard said.

Charleston officials Monday announced about 43 remaining residents of Tent City, which at one point had grown to include over 100 residents, temporarily would be relocated to the a building near the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston. The residents will be assisted in finding permanent housing, employment and other services.
Gilliard said Gov. Nikki Haley should declare a state of emergency to address homelessness in South Carolina.

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