Greenville Homeless Beat The Heat At Shelters, With Help

We all know how hot it's been this summer with the heat index well into the hundreds many days. Most of us probably turn the air conditioning on to beat the heat, but that's not an option for the homeless.

Rusty Craft's sign says it all at a busy Greenville intersection: "homeless, need work, god bless."

"I'm trying to get a job - anything. Cutting grass- 'll shovel horse stables. I don't care. I'll crop tobacco on foot, if I could. I'm just trying to get a job. There ain't no jobs," said Craft.

Craft, who suffers from alcoholism and bipolar disorder, says he's been homeless since May 2008. He's outside day and night - meaning he gets little relief from the sticky weather.

"It's scorching. It's hot. You can see me sweating. Look at my hair, it's hot," said Craft.

On really hot days, he cools off by pouring water over his head, this time from a McDonald's cup.

"Well, sometimes you have to put water on you. I got a glass of water. Thank God. Just drink plenty of water. Sometimes you have to pour it on you."

Many homeless stay in camps in the woods and sleep in tents. They say it's hard to rest when the temperatures climb.

"It's about 104 heat index in the shade and you can't sleep at night in the tents. The bugs are biting you - better know somebody," said Larry Rowe who's homeless.

Earl Phipps is a Greenville police officer who patrols the homeless population and works with the non-profit group Angel Cops. Phipps says the number of homeless people has increased slightly this summer, with some camps bursting at the seems.

"Folks that had jobs that were marginal paying jobs- those jobs went away, and as a result we have some homeless folks that are brand new to the condition of homelessness." said Lt. Phipps.

Phipps and Angel Cops volunteers are busy making sure the homeless are surviving the hot temperatures.

"We're bringing ice into camps, trying to get water and gatorade, bug spray - things that are associated with the type of heat we have now - trying to get that into the hands of folks to make sure they're okay," said Phipps.

"If it was not for him and the organization Angel Cops I'd be dead," said Eddie Stringfellow.

Stringfellow stays at a camp off of Hooker Road, and spends the scorching days looking for work.

"Just try to keep a lot of fluids in you, but it's not easy. It's hot," said Stringfellow.

Others without homes stay at the Greenville Community Shelters where Executive Director Lynn James says they've been at full capacity for the past 3 weeks.

"I think the heat, along with other circumstances in people's lives, have combined to make this a situation where they're not feeling safe on the street and they don't have any other alternatives," said James.

That's what brought Kevin Brown in to the shelter.

"I got sick last August and couldn't work and as time went on, lost where I was staying and ended up in the shelter. I've got a disability case I'm trying to get. I'm waiting for a hearing on that," said Brown.

Brown says he's grateful for the shelter, because he has emphysema, which is dangerous in this weather.

"It's hard to breath for me, with my breathing and everything, so I come here, but it's too hot to be out there,"
said Brown.

Lynn James says people with medical conditions are allowed to stay inside during the day, and others are asked to leave from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., unless there's a heat advisory or warning in effect.

Those without any shelter, like Vietnam veteran Larry Rowe, who says he's been homeless for more than 25 years, say they get by through the kindness of strangers and Angel Cops and hope for better days to come.

"Well, you pray for a breeze and hope God sends you some rain," said Rowe

Lt. Phipps says the Angel Cops organization is hoping to open a day shelter in Greenville to give the homeless community somewhere to get out of the elements, fill out job applications and do laundry. He says if you're interested in joining or donating to Angel Cops, they can be found on facebook.

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