Supporters of plan to address homelessness say it's working - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Supporters of plan to address homelessness say it's working

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The City of Columbia has been carrying out its Emergency Response Plan to deal with the large numbers of homeless people near downtown and in others parts of the city.

That plan includes transporting people down to the winter shelter on the far end of Calhoun near the Columbia Water Plant.

One of the main ideas behind the effort is to both help out business and property owners who complained about trespassing, panhandling and other offensive behavior and providing shelter on a short term basis.

Councilman Cameron Runyan says the city's investment to get things started has already prompted additional contributions to help the homeless.

Runyan says those additional resources have come from agencies, churches and businesses.

Ameris Bank for example, has donated 100,000 units of food. Another organization called Operation Compassion also supplied two tractor trailers of food.

Runyan says there is ample capacity at the winter shelter which has been averaging about 150 people a night.

Not everyone is taking advantage though.

There are some potential shelter residents who complain about being asked to pay a $7 charge if they fail to attend classes at the shelter. 

Despite the disgruntled few, many are pleased with the effect it has had so far.

They say the plan has not solved every issue but it has dropped the number of people out on the streets and started putting many of them on track to better lives.

Attorney Eric Bland told WIS Thursday he stills has the occasional problem with trespassing on his property near Bull and Calhoun, but he says the plan has already led to about 90 people making progress toward permanent housing.

One of Bland's principal concerns now is finding a way to continue these improvements in another five months when the current contract between the city and Christ Central Ministries is set to expire.

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