NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — The City of North Charleston has hired a new homeless coordinator to address the needs of the city’s growing homeless population.

In this newly created role, Brandon Lilienthal will be working with city staff to provide assistance to homeless individuals and strengthen partnerships between agencies and organizations that work on homelessness issues, according to the City of North Charleston’s website.

“My goal is to listen to these individuals and figure out what they want. And then, get them connected with those services to help them transition from homelessness, or to the next phase in their life,” Lilienthal said in a promotional video.

Lilienthal said he grew up in downtown Charleston and previously oversaw the Charleston/Dorchester Mental Health Center.

“They see a lot of programs come through. A lot of individuals say they want to help, and just show up a one time, and you don’t see them anymore — my goal is being consistent,” he said.

In addition to becoming a “familiar face” to North Charleston’s homeless population, Lilienthal hopes his background in psychology will help him build trust in the community.

“It can be very depressing for some individuals,” Lilienthal said. “Eventually, you keep knocking at the door, somebody’s going to let you in. That’s my philosophy.”

According to the new coordinator, a typical day in this role involves visiting encampments, listening to homeless individuals express their needs and making sure they get connected with available resources.

“Connecting them with mental health services, with the Charleston Center…connecting them with the Hope Center, the Navigation Center – connecting them with different partners, that’s my goal,” he said.

As of January 2020, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimated over 4,000 individuals experienced homelessness in South Carolina on any given day.

Local nonprofit Neighbors Together works to provide resources for North Charleston’s homeless individuals. Leaders of the organization said they have witnessed the increase of homelessness firsthand.

“With the inflation on the rise, we have seen an increase of folks at risk for homelessness — and of families, that are falling into homelessness, because there are no options for them,” said Kara Stewart, executive director of Neighbors Together.

Stewart said homelessness in North Charleston has worsened over the “arc of COVID,” adding that missing work due to quarantining for the virus is a contributing factor for many.

“What we’re seeing is those who are already on the edge, who are already paying paycheck to paycheck — if they’re out for a week or two weeks with continuing symptoms, that really wreaks havoc on their family’s budget,” she said.

She said the organization has also seen an increasing number of single mothers come in for help — an emerging trend amidst the overall growth.

“The face of homelessness is single moms, and I think that’s something our entire community needs to pay attention to,” Stewart said as she described how four women had visited the Neighbors Together office in North Charleston for help just hours before.

She added that one of the women was pregnant and facing an eviction notice in effect that day — breaking down in tears when she heard the organization could gather their resources to help.

Stewart said stories like this showcase homelessness is on the rise in North Charleston, and she hopes to see an “increased acceptance” of the fact that it is a worsening issue from the city going forward.

For more information on Neighbors Together, click here.