Brent Walker works at the Pathway House helping to intake men, women and children into the Greenwood cold-weather homeless shelter. (Matt Bruce | Index-Journal)
Brent Walker remembers the day as if it was yesterday. It came in November 2012, the morning he got out of the Greenwood County Detention Center after being stopped in a license check.
Walker remembers being released with a pair of pants and flip-flops and walking clear across town to the south end near S.C. Highway 221, having no idea what next move he was going to make.
"That was when it hit me: I was freaking homeless," he said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I'll never forget that feeling."
That sobering moment more than a year ago sent Walker on a life-changing journey that has landed him at the Pathway House, a Greenwood shelter, helping, praying with and mentoring to the county's homeless with his testimony of inspiration.
Walker works part-time at Pathway, where he helps process men in the overnight cold-weather shelter. The 40-bed facility opened its doors a year ago on the campus of Abney Memorial Baptist Church in Panola Mill Village. It opens its doors each night the temperature falls to 40 degrees or below in Greenwood, offering refuge to homeless men, women and children with dinner, showers, clothes and a warm bed for the evening.
Center officials said the shelter has been relatively busy this season as a particularly brutal winter has descended on the region. Walker prepares meals and shuttles residents to and from the Greenwood Soup Kitchen each day the shelter is open. He is slated to help train Pathway patrons as part of a six-week woodworking course where the homeless residents can learn how to repair furniture. The program is designed to teach the residents a trade they can use for gainful employment.
Walker was unemployed himself when he initially came to Pathway in the winter of 2012 after becoming homeless following an arrest in Greenwood for drunk driving. The arrest was his wake-up call after a heavy alcohol addiction that spanned more than 35 years and cost him multiple jobs and marriages.
Walker said his troubles began in 2009 when he was laid off from a lucrative construction job in Anderson. From there, the 47-year-old Florida native moved back to his hometown to regroup. By 2011, he was back in the Palmetto State, moving to Greenville to reunite with an ex-wife. When the relationship fell apart, Walker said he continued to spiral into addiction and drink excessively.
He was evicted from his Greer apartment in November 2012, packed his bags and set out heading south, not knowing where he was going. It was during that drive that Walker ventured through Greenwood and his life changed. He was arrested and jailed for a night after being stopped at a license stop and cited for driving under the influence. He said he remembers sitting in the jail cell and telling himself that he needed to change his ways. Then he was released from the jail and entered the world homeless. It's a tale that still causes him to become emotional.
"There ain't no feeling like it. I've never felt so insecure, so frightened, so scared to be around anyone," he said. "It's a feeling you can't imagine. You ain't got no one, you have nothing, and you don't know…Man, I've cried so much about that. I don't know, it's the worst feeling you could ever have. I don't ever want to go back there. But I know I won't do it."
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