Homelessness to Opportunity

by Suzanne Floyd, Senior, Interdisciplinary Studies

Follow one student’s journey from homelessness to serving the homeless community in service learning course, WGST 101. If you need help, connect with our Community Resource Coordinator!

From Homelessness to Serving with Opportunity Housing

I had no home when I moved to South Carolina in fall 2011 from the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Within a week I was able to secure full-time employment in a department store and was living with a local family. But after a month, I was put out on the street and moved into a homeless shelter. I felt ashamed and lonely when I went to the homeless shelter; I thought I must have done something wrong to end up in a place like this. I had no family here and the strangers at my new job became my family and my support system. Friends from work took me back and forth to the shelter since I had no vehicle of my own. In the spring of 2013, I met a gentleman who encouraged me to consider going back to school to get my degree. Now I’m about to graduate from Upstate and serve homeless people in the Upstate.

My College Career

In the spring of 2020, I graduated with honors from Greenville Technical College with an Associate of Science. I am now a Senior at Upstate and will be graduating with honors in May 2023 with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies and a minor in Political Science. I am 54 years old, and I am accomplishing one of my biggest dreams to earn a bachelor’s degree. It is never too late to follow your dreams.  

My Service Story

From the time I was little, I can remember being involved in serving people and the community. I grew up watching my Grandparents and my parents serve others, but it took a while before I followed their example. My own service started with the opportunity to do service learning for Introduction to Women’s Gender Studies (WGST 101) with Dr. Esther Godfrey in Fall 2022.

Our class was given two options. We could do service-learning hours or write a ten-page research paper reflecting over the semester’s content. I had to think hard about this decision. I felt afraid of the service-learning option because it meant I would have to face those fears before being able to serve others. My choices were either embrace the past, the shame, and serve others out of those experiences or hide from the past, hold on to the shame and live in bondage. I chose freedom. That is why I am writing this article. The past is the past, but we don’t have to live in it or be held back by it, but we can grow from it and in the process carry others along with us to a brighter future.  

My Community Partner

Through WGST 101, I have partnered with Opportunity Hub an organization based out of Spartanburg County. It encompasses three different programs. Opportunity Center, Opportunity Families, and Opportunity Housing. Opportunity Center provides wrap-around services for adults experiencing homelessness.

Opportunity Families provides shelter, support services, and day centers for families in need such as safe places to sleep, hot meals, housing assistance, and educational services. Finally, Opportunity Housing provides services for emergency, transitional and permanent housing needs. I consider it a privilege to serve alongside these community servants.

Do YOU Need Assistance?

Upstate has a campus-based Community Resource Coordinator (CRC) from the United Way who can help you with challenges that might impede your academic success. The CRC can provide a listening ear, referral to services, or case management depending on the client’s need.

Hailey Barnhill
Community Resource Coordinator
United Way of the Piedmont
Email: hbarnhill@uwpiedmont.org
Web Form: Connect with Hailey

For immediate, one-time needs, the Spartan Student Emergency Fund serves USC Upstate students who encounter an unforeseen financial emergency or catastrophic event which would otherwise prevent them from continuing their education at USC Upstate. Currently enrolled students may apply for funds when they have exhausted all other resources (credit card, payment plans, additional student aid, assistance from family/friends, savings, other personal resources).