Homeless issue a concern for many in Bull Street deal - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Homeless issue a concern for many in Bull Street deal

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A Columbia businessman has a warning for those involved in project that is projected to have more than a billion dollar economic impact.

Accountant Jerry Williams says a growing homeless population in the area could create problems for the proposed Bull Street development.

"You need to be down there after five o-clock," said Williams to a packed city council hearing about the development. "You need to see the prostitution, the public drunkenness, the drug deals that go outside my window every night."

Williams, one of dozens of speakers at a public hearing on the Bull Street project, says he's all for developing the former state hospital campus. But he says the city has to choose between an environment that welcomes business and the current concentration of homeless services downtown.

Councilman Cameron Runyan agrees.

"I think we've got to own the fact that what we have been doing to address homelessness and what we have been doing to address the populations that mingle with the homeless and you just named a couple of them, the prostitutes, the drug dealers and other criminal elements, that what we have been doing is not working," said Runyan.

Runyan recently led council members and others through a pair of lengthy public hearings on homelessness. Last month, he presented a plan to re-think the problem. It's a plan that among other things, suggested creation of a privately-owned center, a "retreat", that would be located ten or more miles outside Columbia.

That idea brought backlash from several service providers.

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