New Directions and CCU are ‘Rolling Forward’ by continuing to provide free transportation to area homeless
Since July 2018, the Rolling Forward program partnered with New Directions men’s homeless shelter to provide free bicycle rentals to the men within the shelter. Lack of transportation is a significant issue the homeless population faces, which explains why Rolling Forward is already making an impact. The men of New Directions use the rental bikes to go to the grocery store, visit with friends, and, most importantly, apply for jobs.
“This program has been great for the community and for the people who use the program,” said Stephanie Southworth, CCU lecturer of sociology and co-founder of Rolling Forward.
The Rolling Forward project started on July 20, 2018, and in the past year more than 250 different homeless clients have borrowed bikes, totaling to more than 1,000 rental days.
“Now that you have opportunities like this, use it to your advantage and help better yourself,” said Matt Freeman, New Directions client.
Not only has this program benefited the homeless community in the Myrtle Beach area, but students from Coastal Carolina have been visiting the shelters to talk with the men and volunteer. They conduct interviews with the homeless clients to see what their needs are and how they have been using the bikes. The majority of the men say they use their bikes to look for employment opportunities and go to work. Being able to provide transportation for the men of the New Directions to get jobs and retain them has made a difference in the community. Due to the success, Rolling Forward plans to extend their area of service into Conway.
“In the coming year, we will start interviewing homeless individuals in the Conway area to see if they have different needs than those in Myrtle Beach,” said Southworth.
The Rolling Forward project keeps the wheels rolling by funding from student fundraising and University internal grants, such as the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) grant. Rolling Forward also gets bikes donated to them from the community, but the majority of the bikes were abandoned at CCU after students leave for the summer. CCU Public Safety attempts to contact the bike owners, but if they have no luck, the bikes are donated to Rolling Forward.
“It makes you feel like someone else cares,” said Michael Green, New Directions client. “Some days all you have is to realize that there is someone who thinks of us.”
Rolling Forward is coming up on its one-year anniversary, and co-founders Southworth and CCU professor Sara Brallier are hosting an event to celebrate the successful past year helping the community. The event is on July 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the parking lot of 1005 Osceola St., Myrtle Beach, at the New Directions men’s shelter. They will be serving food, drinks and will be giving out Rolling Forward “swag.” Local nonprofit agencies will have tables set up to learn about them or seek help.
“The goal of the July 19 event is to celebrate our one-year anniversary with the community,” said Southworth. “The public is invited.”