Efforts to find solutions to homelessness may have hit roadbloc - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Efforts to find solutions to homelessness may have hit roadblock


Efforts by the City of Columbia to find short and long-term solutions to homelessness may have run into a roadblock.

A city councilman leading the efforts says administrators need to move faster and think harder about what's really needed.

The beds in Columbia's winter shelter for the area's homeless have been filled a total of more than 12,700 times in the first three months of the shelter's operations.

Those are people placed close to services and counseling that could keep them off the streets long-term.

A success so far and only a start says Councilman Cameron Runyan.

"We have essentially whittled down the easy cases the folks that we can really help easily," Runyan says. "And now we're sort of down to this core population. Some of them are literally waiting to die, they've got terminal cancer patients down there. One of them's a father and a son who ran out of money and found themselves homeless."

But Runyan and many others trying to attack the city's homelessness problems say a lot more could be done.

He says agencies that deal with the homeless haven't taken an active role.

And the councilman says some in city government have dropped the ball too.

Administrators were more than three weeks late in submitting the outline for proposals on homeless solutions and when that so-called RFP was issued, it failed to address major issues like strategies for the mentally ill and sex offenders.

"It didn't have the depth that city council voted on, and city council has an expectation for," Runyan says.

Runyan also agrees with the findings of a new report from Christ Central Ministries, which has been running the shelter that says city leaders have failed to cheer lead or even acknowledge major efforts from others who have contact with the homeless.

Among them is the Columbia Police Department.

He points to an incident Christmas Eve after Christ Central head Jimmy Jones spotted a pair of men carrying out what appeared to be a drug deal.

"So he called the police chief," Runyan says. "And the police chief was on vacation, off duty with his family on Christmas Eve. The chief got in his car. Drove downtown. And as he was talking to Pastor Jones, staked out and observed the drug dealers. On his day off, called in the drug suppression team. They came in and rounded the folks up and took care of them."

Runyan is referring to Interim Chief Ruben Santiago.

As for the RFP, Runyan wants the city manager and others who submitted it to solicit more ideas and come up with a far more detailed version.

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