Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Richland County Library has a program that's helping the homeless get back on their feet.
Larry Benjamin has been through a lot in life.
”The most difficult part of the journey was and is not knowing what’s next. Made some bad choices and wound up going to prison. From that, I did 33 years," said Benjamin.
From prison, he went straight to transitional housing. Although he was considered homeless, he was ready to start his second chance at life.
"This was one of those by chance things. I don't believe in luck. I believe in you do what's right and you get on the right path," explained Benjamin.
Benjamin found a new path through the Richland County Library.
Sewell Gelbard, a social worker at the library, introduced Benjamin to a program called the New Hope grant.
"It’s been pretty rewarding to watch lives change. We have a bucket of money that we can invest with a lot of encouragement, case management, and other services trying to get them to find jobs," explained Gelbard.
Funded by United Way, the library is helping those down on their luck.
The program helps people with job applications, learning computer skills, how to finance, and many other things to get them out in the work force.
Gelbard says out of the 38 people they’ve worked with, 36 of them have found jobs. He also says this proves that the library is more than just a place to check out books. They’re here to help the community in more ways than people think.
They’re now in the second stage of the grant. United Way decided to renew it and Gelbard is excited to say they may be able to do this for at least two more years.
Benjamin now has a place to call home. The New Hope Grant has helped Benjamin have his own bed to sleep in at night and a place to hang his hat at the end of every day.
"When you walk in here, you have to walk by faith. It's amazing to be able to say this is mine. This belongs to me. I pay the bills. I pay the rent. I'm responsible for what does and doesn't happen," said Benjamin.
With a special friendship between Gelbard and Benjamin, comes respect.
"Someone who can come from 33 years and come out in the streets with hope is pretty impressive. I don't know if I would have been able to do that," said Gelbard.
But Benjamin did just that.
"There's so many people in our community that needs this library. I needed it and it's showing that in great volumes. I keep praying to God that I'm able to continue to do well so that people can see and I can continue to sing the praises of the library," said Benjamin.
Benjamin credits God for helping him get to where he is today. He plans on opening a business called Second Chance Cleaning to pay it forward and help those that needed help in a difficult time in their lives just like he did.