New facility lends a helping hand to Midlands homeless

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS)- It was years in the making, drawing heavy criticism from nearby homeowners costing more than eleven million dollars to build.

Now a month after opening, Columbia's Transitions Center is starting to make a difference for the area's homeless.

After three years out of work and on the streets, Paul Bolden has found a place he can call home at least for the time being. "That concrete mattress doesn't feel so good after so many years," said Bolden.

"It's been a tough schedule. I've lost 35 pounds being on the streets here this last year. You know you're not supposed to lose 35 pounds in a year but I've done that."

Bolden is one of about a hundred people taking up residence at the new Transitions center on Main that has been open for almost a month.

Carole Cheeke, a homeless woman who lost her son last year says she likes the new facility that's helping her get her life back together. "I'm an alcoholic and I haven't drank since I've been here for two weeks," said Cheeke.

Executive Director Larry Arney says many now see the facilities and the services here as an opportunity to break the cycle of homelessness. "We had a lot of people stopping by or asking questions about when we would open and so I think that word is really very definitely out as to what services we offer," said Arney.

According to Arney so far Transitions hasn't ran into any major problems getting operations underway.

He says the center has been working with members of the Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association who began criticizing Transitions before it was even built.

"I feel like our relationship is pretty good. I think that we have some of the same concerns which are you know, public safety, cleanliness of the neighborhood and those kinds of things. We want to make sure we are a good neighbor," Arney added.

The president of the Elmwood Park Neighborhood group Mary Jo Roue says she doesn't see any changes in the number of homeless people or any problems caused by the center so far in downtown Columbia.

She also added that it might be too early to judge the impact of transitions on her community.

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