City Council to hear long-term plan to tackle homelessness soon - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

City Council to hear long-term plan to tackle homelessness soon

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A long-term plan to tackle homelessness in Columbia is in the works and will be presented to city council within days.

A city-appointed committee has a number of recommendations to city leaders.

Last fall, council decided the emergency shelter is just a temporary fix. Before that, in August, the city drew national attention for a controversial plan to address homelessness that involved stepped up police enforcement to drive the homeless away from downtown.

With temperatures close to freezing, Lonnie Henry has a warm meal and a warm place to sleep.

Columbia's emergency shelter is still open, but one day, Henry hopes he and others won't need it.

"Until you change the method of how you're helping people, you're going to always have people that's not willing to do anything," Henry said.

Just down the street is Elizabeth Marks.

"For instance, a lot of food would be abandoned on Calhoun Street," Marks said.

Marks said she wants smarter solutions for homelessness too.

With 22 meals fed to the homeless throughout the city each week, Marks said a lot of it is wasted.

"We would find food underneath the bushes where people had gone in and taken out just their favorite things and left everything else," said Marks.

But Marks is pushing for change.

She's part of a city-appointed committee tasked with creating a long-term plan for Columbia's homeless.

She said the committee will present its proposal to council next Tuesday.

Marks said the plan won't involve sending homeless people to one big shelter away from downtown.

Instead, she said it's about using a number of resources that already exist by creating a better network of non-profits.

It'll avoid duplication -- so no food or service is wasted and it'll provide the homeless a faster exit ramp.

"Tuesday night won't be a request for buckets of money," said Rev. Jimmy Jones. "It should be that we are now with some outlines for how to bring some direction to services needed."

Back at the shelter, Henry said education is key.

"You can give a man a fish, you know, and he'll keep wanting that fish, but not too many people or organizations are teaching him how to fish," Henry said.

The solution is ultimately in the city council's hands but Marks and Jones said they are both optimistic that a fix is on the way.

Jones said Columbia's plan will be a pilot project for the nation.

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