MYRTLE BEACH—It doesn’t take much searching to find people living in third-world conditions right here in our own communities.
The lucky ones have found organizations that can help; places like Catholic Charities and Home Works of America.
In the Pee Dee Deanery, dozens of people spoke to The Miscellany about life on the edge.
They range from young, single moms, to military veterans.
Jacklyn Evans, 32, said her high school degree isn’t enough to land a job that can cover even the minimum expenses of raising four children, ages 12 to 1.
Clothes, food, bills — it adds up to more than she has.
She lives in the rural, outlying areas of Myrtle Beach, places that don’t have public transportation. To get to her job with the hotel industry, Evans said she spent a good chunk of her paycheck paying for rides to and from work — $10 each way, $100 a week.
“If you don’t live in the city limits, you really don’t have options,” she said. “You just suck it up and pray to God for a better day.”
That day came when she received her own car. Now, at least, she has transportation. But she’s still trying to find a job that will support her family.
Evans said she lost one of her eyes in an accident when she was only 2. She started working with her mom after school, cleaning houses, when she was 14, and continued in that field until just recently.
Working at a hotel, she suffered an infection in her remaining eye from chemicals, and was terrified at the thought of being completely blind.
She turned to Catholic Charities, which she praised for not just offering monetary support, but for praying with her and putting her in a management program that will help improve her life.
“There are people out there who don’t have guidance in life,” she said. “Assistance alone isn’t putting you anywhere in life.”
Evans said she will start nursing school at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in the spring.
“I’m going to try to better myself so my kids can better themselves,” she said.
Evans is actually one of the lucky people. Even with medical issues, she’s still young enough to make things better.
That isn’t always the case.
Bob House said he worked in computer services until he wound up in the hospital for three months, suffering the effects of severe diabetes.
Buried under a mountain of medical bills, House said the bank recently foreclosed on his home. Now he’s looking for a spot in low-income housing.
Ashley Washington, 54, is among the growing number of military veterans who are unable to find work.
Honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, he moved to Conway to care for his terminally ill mother. Washington said he has a license as a forklift operator, but can’t find a job there. He took a temporary job delivering phone books, but spent half his paycheck on gas.
At a loss, Washington said he returned to school with help from Catholic Charities, and is hoping that will translate to an inside sales job.
James Perkey is another veteran on the verge of losing his house, a situation that has the former soldier fighting back tears.
“I’m 60 years old, and I’ve always been able to pay my bills,” he said, his breath struggling in and out.
Perkey has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which means he’s lost a portion of his lung function and relies on an oxygen machine.
As a younger man, Perkey served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. After an honorable discharge, he worked as a grocery store supervisor in his hometown in West Virginia. Later, he moved to Myrtle Beach and worked as a maintenance technician for the city’s public pool system.
Unable to work now because of his lung disease, he and his wife Victoria have suffered a series of setbacks that have them in fear of the future.
First he received a bill from the Veterans Administration for $21,000. Apparently, Perkey said, he was no longer entitled to disability payments, but no one knew that at the time.
Then he ended up in the hospital for almost a month with MRSA, a type of staph bacteria that does not respond to some antibiotics.
“He like to have died,” his wife said. “For 14 days he didn’t know he was in this world.”
After rehab in a nursing home, Perkey returned to his small mobile home in Loris to find out his wife had lost her fulltime job at Loris Hospital and Seacoast Medical Center.
“When you’re counting on that $1,000 a month, and all of a sudden it’s not coming in anymore,” he said. “We had to do away with a lot of things.”
Even then, it wasn’t enough. The couple traveled to Charleston recently for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy hearing. They hope to settle bills with the VA, the hospital, and credit cards.
Perkey said he doesn’t want his creditors to end up with nothing, but he doesn’t want to end up on the street because of medical bills either.
“It’s just a struggle,” he said. “It’s a hard way to live after all this time.”