South Carolina City Makes Being Homeless Illegal… Then Reverses Decision

South Carolina Homeless

Back in August, South Carolina’s capital city made the controversial decision to make homelessness illegal, because why not? It worked so well for drugs and prostitution…

Concerned that Columbia has become a “magnet for homeless people,” city council members in Columbia, South Carolina, voted unanimously to criminalize homelessness. The proposal effectively made homelessness illegal in parts of the city by forcing those who sleep outdoors to be sent to a shelter on the outskirts of the city. If the homeless refused to go to the remote emergency shelter, they would be forcibly put there or sent to jail. And much like prison, once you got to the shelter, you couldn’t just get up and leave. Shelter inhabitants would need to get permission to leave and police officers would be standing on guard.

The anti-homeless plan received lots of support from Columbia’s local business leaders who say the city’s homeless problem has been affecting their businesses for decades. Many of them believe shipping the homeless to the outskirts of town and keeping them there is crazy enough to work… unlike the homeless people in question.

But council members acknowledged that this was only a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

“This is stopgap,” Councilman Cameron Runyan said in defense of the plan. “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.”

Still, homeless advocates were less than impressed with the plan – which did nothing to tackle the root causes of homelessness.

“[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, said. “Using one massive shelter on the outskirts to house all a city’s homeless is something that has never worked anywhere in the country.”

In the end, the homeless won out. After receiving considerable backlash from police, city workers and advocates, the city council apologized and decided to reverse its unanimous vote to make homeless people go to a 240-person bed shelter or go to prison. Now South Carolina’s homeless people are given the option if they want to stay put or be driven to the shelter.

Homelessness is not a crime,” Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago said. “We can’t just take people to somewhere they don’t want to go. I can’t do that. I won’t do that.”

Tell that to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Via: Fox News & The Huffington Post

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