Another City to Criminalize Homelessness

On August 14th, Columbia South Carolina will join the list of cities that are now criminalizing homelessness. After the unanimous vote was passed by city council members, homeless individuals will have the opportunity to either relocate, or go to jail.
A 240-person bed emergency shelter will be open from September to March on the outskirts of town. Homeless people and persons recently released from prison and jail will be all dropped off at this shelter.
In an effort to remove the homeless from the streets, a hotline will be set up for people to “report” a homeless person, and police will be beefed up to aide in this process of removal.
“This is a stopgap,” Councilman Cameron Runyan told WISTV. “This is going to open up a window of opportunity for us to come together as a community to develop a long-term response to this problem. This problem has plagued us for a generation and a half at least.”
Even for supporters of this plan, there are many flaws that must be addressed. The money that has been allotted to “run” this shelter is about $500,000 when in reality it will likely cost closer to $1.7 million. This is money that the taxpayers will have to pony up.
In addition to the financial impact, homeless advocates are unhappy with the proposal of this kind of shelter. Once at the shelter, the homeless will not be allowed to leave without permission and a guard will be placed at the entrance to the street.
“[This is the] most comprehensive anti-homeless measure that [I have] ever seen proposed in any city in the last 30 years,” Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless, told ThinkProgress. “Using one massive shelter on the outskirts to house all a city’s homeless is something that has never worked anywhere in the country.”