EASLEY – An Easley man is finding a mission in helping homeless downtown Greenville people find their way to shelter.
Justin Broome marks his path toward Immerse, the organization that is helping several dozen people find their way, with a Bible study in downtown Greenville.
“We started meeting with people we ran into on the street,” Broome told a crowd gathered at Easley’s Smithfields Country Club. One of those present was Willie Rice, who told his story of falling into homelessness and finding his way out.
The gathering at Smithfields was a the annual meeting of clients of Robbin Broome, an Easley investment counselor. Justin, in his mid 20s, is Robbin Broome’s son.
Rice was one of those Greenville homeless men that Justin ran into early on. Now they work together reaching out to homeless people with promise.
Rice had been a regular worker with a variety of companies including several grocery stores when he started his own business that he operated from his Greenville home. When his landlord sold the home and he faced paying higher rent, Rice and his wife had a decision to make. They could not afford the rent they would have to pay. What they ended up with was a decision for his wife to move in with family, and he would move out onto the street. “I didn’t want her to have to endure that (homelessness),” he said.
A stereotype of homeless people is that they got into their situation because of drug and alcohol abuse. Studies show that addiction plays a major role in the lives of homeless people. Rice says that although he has abused substances in the past, he has dealt with that part of his life, and he no longer uses substances like alcohol and drugs.
In a YouTube video, he takes viewers on a tour of downtown Greenville, places where he would stay. He talks in the video about finding a place where people couldn’t see, under and around bridges and overpasses.
“The police knew we were their, but they didn’t come around.” They didn’t come around until the temperature dropped to dangerous levels, then the police would move the homeless to temporary shelters, Rice said.
“For two years I lived that way, but I wasn’t going around saying, ‘Why me?’ I was saying, ‘Lord, why not me. I can handle it.’ I give God all the praise and glory. Justin caught the spirit of me. What I want to do now is to help other people the way I was helped. You have to look to the soul inside of someone.”
He reached inside his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “Now for the first time in two years, I have my own set of house keys,” Rice said.
Immerse continues looking for donations, gift cards, carry-on suitcases, men’s bikes
gloves, thermal pants, shoes backpacks and mummy sleeping bags.
Clients of Robbin Broome at the Smithfields meeting donated $950 to Immerse. Robbin Broome Associates donated a matching amount, Robbin Broome said.