By Royale Bonds, Greenville News

Springfield Baptist Church was filled with over 329 people from various congregations on Thursday, March 9.

When asked, “What’s our goal?” and “What do we want,” the crowd yelled “Justice!” in unison.

Greenville Organized for Accountable Leadership (GOAL) is an interfaith organization made up of over 20 congregations across Greenville County.

The organization held it’s Justice Ministry Rally to prepare for the Nehemiah Action event on Tuesday, March 28, when over 1,200 people will gather and seek clear commitment to solutions from local officials. After discussions, the organization decided to focus on two key issues – affordable housing and mental health.

Addressing affordable housing issues in Greenville County

According to GOAL, there is a shortage of at least 11,000 homes for families making less than $27,000 a year in Greenville County.

“There are people in your church, in your neighborhood, teaching your children, bagging your groceries and every walk of life that cannot afford the cost of living in Greenville County, but everyone in Greenville deserves a safe and affordable place to live,” Dr. Feliccia Smith, Valley Brook Outreach Baptist Church, said.

GOAL is asking Greenville City Council and Greenville County Council to commit $20 million of local funding, every year, for affordable housing. GOAL believes 30 percent of the funding should go to families making at or below 30 percent of the area media income, which is about $27,000 for a family of four.

“What we’re asking them to do is set is a goal. We understand that may not happen within the next several months but we’re asking them to set that as a goal and to get creative with revenue streams,” Amanda Taylor, Triune Mercy Center, said. “Other cities are doing it. They’ve been very creative in creating revenue streams for housing funds. So, we’re asking them to create that goal with us and to get creative about funding the housing funds.”

Meeting Greenville County and South Carolina’s mental health needs

GOAL also wants more mental health resources.

According to GOAL, over 46,000 people in South Carolina contacted the 988 mental health emergency line in 2022. Of those 127 calls a day, only 55 people received a response from someone in the state and every day 72 people reach out to the emergency line with no response. Of those unanswered calls, 24 a day are people under the age of 24.

GOAL would like for the 988 mental health emergency line to receive $3.9 million in the 2023-2024 budget. The organization encourages people to call Senator Corbin at (803)-212-6100 and Senator Allen at (803)-212-6040 and ask for support for funding the 988-emergency line.

Triune Mercy Center Reverend Jennifer Fouse Sheron said, the purpose of the Justice rally was for the congregations to know what they are asking for at the Nehemiah Action, to be excited about what they are asking for and to be prepared that there will be tension at the event.

“In order to see systemic change, it takes people power,” Reverend Sheron said.

See original story here.