Homelessness in Columbia | a step in the right direction, an example for others.

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Over the past few weeks, South Carolina’s capital city and our community have been consumed by a particularly public debate around how we will deal with our homeless brothers and sisters. The focus of many national news outlets, people across the nation watched closely to see the example we might set. There were times during these weeks when it seemed the distance between local business owners, citizens, elected officials, law enforcement, homeless advocates, and the homeless themselves was too great to bridge. Civil discussion seemed hopeless and a compromised plan nearly out of reach.
But this week at SC Appleseed, we are hopeful as we share with you the Resolution passed by City Council to addresses the concerns of the homeless community and service providers. We believe this is the start of a plan to help eradicate poverty and homelessness in Columbia, South Carolina. 
A plan not to hide homelessness, but to eradicate it. 
During these last few weeks, our team at SC Appleseed was constantly working behind the scenes with partners and allies, concerned citizens and elected officials, service providers and legal experts, to do what we do best…
— serve as a voice for those in need —

We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with Columbia City Council on developing a resolution to address homelessness in our city. We are grateful for city council members who were willing listen and look forward to more work with them.

We would like to particularly thank the Washington D.C. based law firm and our new friends, Hogan Lovells, for their willingness to assist us through this. They provided an assessment of the legality of the City Council proposals under the United States Constitution and other state and federal laws, which was central to changing the tide in our local discussions. With their involvement, we were able to confirm that numerous proposals not only placed significant burdens on the homeless and the entire Columbia community, but also would violate homeless persons’ constitutional and statutory rights. With their assistance and backing, we were able to propose alternative solutions that would protect the rights of all of our citizens. Armed with their assessment and our alternative solutions, we were able to help City Council move towards a plan that meets both the needs of our city’s homeless residents, and the businesses and citizens working to strengthen our local economy and communities.

By assisting a Council which aims to coordinate with those who have worked tirelessly for decades with the homeless community, we can begin to have discussions on how to really address poverty and homelessness in Columbia. Our hope at SC Appleseed, is that these beginning steps will lead to greater discussions around the complex and important issues often at the root of homeless in our city – affordable housing, living wage jobs, ending hunger, supporting our Veterans, access to healthcare, immigrants rights, and the collateral consequences of an arrest or conviction in South Carolina. If we can do this, then Columbia, our Capital City, could show the rest of the state how to truly address homelessness and poverty on a systemic level.

Together we can improve the lives and well being of everyone in our state.

Despite Columbia becoming the focal point of the media both nationally and locally, Columbia City Council was able to come to an amicable, meaningful Resolution on how we begin to work with our homeless brothers and sisters, service providers and the business community in Columbia to help those in need. Introduced by Mayor Steven K. Benjamin, the proposal allows Columbia to be an example for others as it recognizes the complexity of homelessness and the need to work together:

“The City of Columbia, Christ Central Ministries and service providers recognize that meeting the challenge of homelessness and poverty requires a community response and that this is a ‘we’ challenge, not a ‘them’ challenge and never an effort to deprive any individuals of civil liberties or to criminalize poverty.”
Finally, we would like to thank our supportive Board of Directors that understands the purpose and meaning of SC Appleseed. They enable and empower us to be an advocate for low-income families, children and seniors across the state and, without our Board, we would not be able to do what we do.
We will continue to be a voice for those in need in South Carolina, working with local officials, citizens, community partners and government agencies. We will monitor the continued development and implementation of the Resolution adopted by City Council on last Tuesday night. We are eager and prepared to provide assistance and guidance along the way as we move forward together to continue building a great city and community here in Columbia.

At SC Appleseed, we are still fighting.

To learn more about SC Appleseed’s work on housing and homelessness, visit our Housing Policy page.

For resources on Housing issues, click here.