MYRTLE BEACH—Kendel Stultz came to Myrtle Beach thinking he’d find work and a place to live.
Instead, he ended up in a tent in the woods, sitting in chairs waterlogged by rain and eating off a table crawling with bugs.
He kept his spot clean, he said, and tried to stay out of sight. But in February, after one of the men nearly burnt to death, the police came and ordered Stultz and about 65 other homeless people to pack their gear and clear out of the woods off Robert Grissom Parkway. Those who didn’t leave in time were arrested.
Stultz said he packed up his tent and belongings, but he still comes back at night.
“I have my sleeping bag and some blankets … I plop down wherever I can, in the trees. There’s nowhere to go,” he said. “I can’t walk to Carolina Forest every day.”
Pointing to dozens of other men and women, he calls their names and asks if they’ve found another place to stay yet. The answer is always no.
It’s a familiar story, and one that many residents are tired of hearing.
One young lady on her way to work along Ocean Boulevard said it’s time for the homeless to help themselves.
With unapologetic candor, she said they’re a nuisance and an eyesore that’s bad for tourism, which is lifeblood for this part of Myrtle Beach.
“You can see ’em showering down there on the boardwalks,” she said, but asked that her name not be used.
This is where the giant Ferris wheel runs, where rides, attractions and the ocean lure tourists.
Less than a mile away is the epicenter of outreach services, staffed by people determined to help those on the fringes.
James Henderson, 66, said he lives off social security. It’s tight though, and he eats at the Community Kitchen whenever he can, just to get by.
“Many, many, many of our clients come here to eat because it’s either buy food or pay the rent,” said Nancy Cribb, co-director.
The outreach averages 300-350 meals a day, she said.
It’s one of the reasons the homeless flock here. This one-mile radius contains the kitchen, Helping Hand, Swash Park Ministries, and Street Reach, a shelter that serves dinner nightly.
With 137 beds, about 45 are reserved for those in the recovery program, and the rest go quickly each night.
One lady said they have to line up at 3:30 each day to get a spot.
“They don’t have the space available for all the homeless,” said Mira Palomares, who works at Little River Medical Clinic. “They have to turn people away every single night.”
Hundreds end up on the streets.
For some, it’s a choice, Cribb said, noting that she’s served some of the same people at Community Kitchen for 13 years. But most just need a little bit of help.
“It’s not like I’m just some bum who came down here to do nothing,” Stultz said, pointing out that he was an electrician for 30 years and raised two sons.
Now, he said, he’s treated as less than human.
The city of Myrtle Beach has crafted a Homeless Coalition to consolidate resources in the area under one umbrella, officials said. The homeless, and those who try to help them, hope it will do some good.
Palomares, a member of St. James Church in Conway, said she prays with them, and paints a picture of grown men who ask God for guidance with tears running down their faces.
“They don’t want to be out there. They want a job; they want out of the woods,” she said, calling for compassion. “Some of us are only one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves.”