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Has Columbia's image suffered in wake homeless plan's national coverage?

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Columbia's Main Street has arguably been the epicenter of downtown's homeless issues. Columbia's Main Street has arguably been the epicenter of downtown's homeless issues.

If you're an Internet news hound, then it has been difficult to ignore the headlines and news stories covering Columbia City Council's plan to deal with homelessness in the downtown business district.

In fact, some of the headlines have been downright shocking and even inaccurate.

"South Carolina city makes being homeless illegal" - FoxNews

"S.C. capital's plan for the homeless? Ban them" - USA Today

"South Carolina City Takes Steps to Evict Homeless From Downtown" - New York Times

"Kicking Out the Homeless in Downtown Columbia, South Carolina" - TIME Magazine

"South Carolina City Approves Plan To Exile Its Homeless" - ThinkProgress

"Columbia, South Carolina Criminalizes Homelessness In Unanimous Vote" - Huffington Post

It wouldn't take a public relations professional to tell you these are the kinds of headlines you don't want to see about a state's capital city.

But if you ask City Councilman Cameron Runyan, the architect of the city's "emergency response plan" on the homeless, the negative press hasn't done any damage to Columbia.

"I think what it has pointed to is that we have some folks who may call themselves journalists -- particularly national, Internet-based journalists -- who have put forward some very irresponsible headlines, then picked up by the more traditional media outlets as well, so it's been interesting," said Runyan.

The first-term councilman says he expected to take some heat for proposals that include a police crackdown on trespassing, loitering, public intoxication and other issues linked to a sharp increase in the city's homeless population.

Runyan says regardless of the headlines, City Council is on a path to continue debating and voting on a plan to deal with the homeless.

"City Council has now voted to endorse formally the six goals that were in Columbia Cares. I think some in the press missed that," said Runyan. "We have now voted to endorse those formally, so that has now set the target for where we're heading as a city as it relates to homelessness."

But perhaps Runyan's greatest hope is City Council's debate on the issue could encourage a national dialogue about poverty and homelessness in America.

"My real prediction is if we can keep moving the way we are moving, because what we're proposing here is quite transformational, the potential for this to become a national model for other areas to look at around the country, so I'm very excited about where we're going," said Runyan.

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