“Hello. Hello. Anybody home?” my colleague Jason Lee calls into a homeless camp.
“Watch where you step,” he says to me. “There may be needles.”
The tree limbs work as hangers in a closet. Clothes hang on nearly every tree and blow in the wind. We keep thinking we’re seeing a person each time the wind makes the clothes move.
But no one is there.
Jason’s taking photos. I’m looking around.
Fresh donuts are in a box in a grocery cart. Another box is on the ground. It’s half full. Some donuts are smashed in the dirt.
There’s just absolute junk everywhere – a toilet seat, a bong, a cardboard wine box that’s been ruined by rain. I see a lamp shade, a half way set up tent, shoes.
I keep thinking – I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s just incredible.
Jason, a multi-media journalist, and I both agree it doesn’t feel right walking into someone’s home. Though the homes are outside and homes we aren’t traditionally used to.
We’re just off of U.S. 501 in Myrtle Beach. We hear the cars racing by these two homeless camps, which are less than one hundred yards apart.
The reason we’re here is because one of the camps caught fire just a week ago. Our editor has sent us to check out the area again, to look for more camps.
I’m hoping we will run into people who live here. I want to hear stories about how they ended up living in the woods, what brought them here, what life is like in a tent.
And I want to tell those stories. I want to tell their stories to educate others, to shine light in these woods.
But nobody’s home.
We see a sign put up by county officials soon after the fire. It says the area will be cleaned up next week.
After looking at the area, we go to a warehouse-looking building that has a few businesses inside, like a motorcycle shop and another place where engines are built.
The owner of the building, a man who builds engines and rents out the motorcycle shop, says homeless people have lived in the woods beside his shop for the last 10 years. You can throw a rock from the camps and hit his building.
I wonder – why have these camps been set up so close to these businesses?
The camp closest to the building is the one that caught fire. The metal trashcan and area that burnt is still visible.
A manager at the motorcycle shop tells us that workers were throwing buckets of water on the flames to make sure the building didn’t catch fire.
I try to figure out what the story is here after seeing all of this. There are dozens of homeless camps in Myrtle. And I’ve got a lot of questions.
I have a feeling the story is a lot bigger than just one write up on these two camps.
We hop in Jason’s SUV and head to our next stop – an apartment where a 33 year old lived who died in a car crash a few days ago.
Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong.