Eva Whitlock has spent her life on Blackmon Road just outside Rock Hill. It's a place where the paved road turns to dirt. There are abandoned, dilapidated houses overgrown with weeds, and many of the occupied ones are barely livable.
"I thought I'd see more, by now," Whitlock said about the planned improvements to the nearly 50-year-old community.
Many of her neighbors have long since moved away, but about 50 still live there. Some don't have working plumbing and must use port-a-johns set up outside. Whitlock said the power In her home is easily overloaded and unreliable.
Residents said those who run the community center up the street could be doing more to help them. That center, called "A Place For Hope," was established in 2001. That's when local news reports first drew attention to the appalling living conditions of people on Blackmon Road. At that time, people were living in old rusted out school buses and shacks.
Community groups launched major clean-up efforts, gave people access to medical care and built the community center to help with education, job training, children's activities and, in general, provide hope.
For Whitlock, it hasn't been enough.
"When they put that center up there, it was supposed to be for the community, to help the community. I haven't seen nothing," she said.
Long-time resident Danny Walker has a different opinion on the progress.
"I've spent my whole life here," he said. "Changes take time. You can't just pop your fingers and make them happen."
Walker is on a board that's exploring an opportunity for new housing on Blackmon Road. If approved next spring, a grant could help make it possible for new construction that could transition people to better homes. That move could pave the way for more changes.
Karen McKernan is executive director of A Place For Hope.
"It would cost $3 million to run water and sewer down all the streets here," she said.
Before that's done, the houses that connect to those lines must meet state health codes and, right now, they don't.
McKernan said she understands that Blackmon Road families have been promised a lot but haven't seen the reality yet, making it hard to have much hope.
"We're working on it," she said. “I'm writing grants and setting up programs to bring some of this money back into this community."
It's happening slowly. Last month, A Place For Hope got a grant from the Junior Welfare League for $60,000. That money will buy a mini bus to help with transportation needs for residents and carry children to youth programs across the county.
Many of these opportunities were not possible even a few years ago. A lot of the work has been done by volunteers and through donations.
Walker said there's progress everywhere, and people should see it.
"I've sacrificed much of my time getting this place whipped into shape," he said.
However, the work won't be finished soon. It'll be next spring before the community can apply for a healthy housing grant, and next fall before they can seek money for new water and sewer lines.
McKernan urged residents to be patient.
"We're working on it, and we're closer than we've ever been," she said.