Council plan to open homeless shelter early hits snag - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Council plan to open homeless shelter early hits snag

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Columbia City Council is negotiating a contract to open the winter shelter early as part of a long-term homeless plan. Columbia City Council is negotiating a contract to open the winter shelter early as part of a long-term homeless plan.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Columbia City Council's plan to open the city's cold weather shelter earlier and on an around-the-clock basis has been delayed.

Council voted to open the shelter on Sept. 24 pending the approval of a contract between the city and Christ Central Ministries.

There was impassioned debate between council members, business leaders, and citizens about the plan. However, there was a consensus formed that just opening the shelter is merely a temporary fix and a long-term plan was necessary.

Rev. Jimmy Jones with Christ Central says he wants to run the shelter, but wants an end goal from council because the shelter is not the solution.

"If we just deal with one issue alone, if we don't do anything about solving the city's problem, I would not be interested in running the winter shelter this season. I'm very tired about that. I would not want to run the winter shelter just to run the winter shelter. I would want to make it part of a plan to move forward," said Jones.

Even homeless citizens showed up to discuss the plan at the meeting.

"Tonight, we had no place to go," said one homeless man. "We decided we wanted to be here to speak out and have our voices heard as part of the homeless community because it's hard for us to find help, and because of that we're not going to have a place to go tonight."

"We've got to proceed with something, and council, you've got the choice tonight on whether you want to be not pro-business, but I think it's pro-homeless too to start something," said one citizen. "This is like a diagram or at least a blueprint that can be improved on."

The shelter would be open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for 7 months beginning at the end of September.

Rev. Jones reiterated this plan only works with cooperation from the city and service providers to help the clientele get back on their feet by providing information about jobs and affordable housing.

The city will be accepting longer-term proposals until January 2014.

And as for security, Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago says the Police Department's plan is to continue to fight crime and that homeless is not a crime.

Santiago says their game plan isn't changing much, but this all is contingent upon a final plan to be passed by council.

Council will return to deliberate contract negotiations on Sept. 17.

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