Community still questioning city's homeless plan - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Community still questioning city's homeless plan

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Columbia's emergency shelter is supposedly set to open in two weeks, but the community still has questions. Community leaders had a chance Monday night to get some of those questions answered at a town hall hosted by Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan.

"My main issue is they're only proposing for 240 people. That's like putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound," said Oscar Gadsden, a former homeless man. "It's ridiculous."

Gadsden was one of many who spoke out at Monday night's meeting. He's concerned there will not be enough room at the city's emergency shelter.

"There's all kinds of other services out there," said Pastor Jimmy Jones, who heads up the city's winter shelter. "Winter shelter is not a fix-all and it certainly doesn't solve all our problems."

Jones says last year they used only 64 percent of their beds. Gadsden says that's because many of the homeless did not like how they were treated.

"The homeless would rather live on the street than be treated like criminals, just for being homeless," said Gadsden.

"Is it inhumane not to smoke in your building? Is it inhumane to ask someone not to drink or do drugs in your building? And if that constitutes them feeling like it's institutionalized, then I have no apologies for that," said Jones. "But for the rest of the majority, they say, 'Thank you for the chance to sleep and get in out of the weather. Thank you for a warm bed.'"

Councilman Runyan says the city's plan is about treating all of humanity the same.

"The homeless and those of us who have homes have to abide by the same set of laws and those laws will continue to be applied equitably for everyone," said Runyan.

Monday's meeting was just informational. Even after the shelter opens, it is just a piece of the city's larger plan. City Council meets next Tuesday to go over the contract. If it gets approved, Christ Central Ministries will have just 7 days to open the shelter.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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