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Homelessness in Richland County

Homelessness has so many faces in our community. With the South Carolina unemployment rate rising to more than eight percent in recent years, it’s not surprising that Columbia’s transient population has continued to grow. But most Midlands families don’t realize that they’re potentially only a paycheck or two away from becoming homeless themselves.

The library is here to help those on a transitional path. We offer a variety of classes that help people get reestablished—everything from job skills training to computer classes, GED classes and one-on-one resume help in the Business and Job Center. Public computers are also available for job searches, social communication and research.

The library also works closely with a variety of local and national organizations to help advance our community. Eight Richland Library staff members volunteer at Transitions, a transitional facility in downtown Columbia operated by the Midlands Housing Alliance, and regularly refer clients to library resources that meet their needs. 

The Facts

  • With 11 facilities located throughout Richland County, the library’s resources and services are accessible to everyone, regardless of their race, background or status.
  • The library’s outstanding security staff works hard to ensure the safety of all who use the library while making certain that all customers abide by the code of conduct. The library system saw more than 2.7 million visits last year, with more than a million of those at Main. In that same time period, security intervention was only necessary in less than one half a percent of the time.
  • Our customers’ safety is a priority. Anyone who feels uncomfortable at the library for any reason should alert staff. Security will also gladly walk customers to their cars.
  • Get the Richland Library’s Executive Director’s perspective.


► Richland Library Emergency Services Guide
► Columbia Homeless Shelters & Services For The Needy
► Richland County, South Carolina Help for Homeless and Hungry People
Harvest Hope Food Bank
Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless

In Our Customers’ Words

Meet Ronald:

He’s a young, slightly learning impaired African American and ex-offender living at a local shelter. Very respectful and somewhat shy, he shared his desire to obtain a position with the food industry with the staff in our Business and Job Center.  We worked with him to highlight his community service work feeding the homeless on his resume. One day, long after his resume has been completed, he personally came to the library to share his gratitude.

“I just wanted to thank you for helping me and staying after me through my friends [Other Bethel House members would come to the library for help and the career specialist would send messages through them] to keep doing my “homework.”  I now have a job working at the student center at USC in food services. Thanks for taking time out for me.” He went on to say that the library helped him develop computer skills and to look for jobs online. 

Meet Stacey:

Stacey and her husband followed a job prospect to Columbia from Spartanburg, but when the job did not last for more than two months, they found their meager resources were not enough to return to Spartanburg or sustain them in Columbia. Living in a temporary shelter, Stacey found her way to the Business and Job Center where the librarians and job readiness trainers provided job search assistance and, more importantly, encouragement.

“The staff helped me with everything from creating my resume to mock interviews. They were willing to answer all of my questions no matter how trivial I thought they were. They also helped me with attaching my resume to emails, fazing, positive reinforcement—you name it! Thanks so much. I start my new job on November 21!”