Columbia leaders discuss new homeless shelter

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Thursday Columbia City Council members sat down to talk about a recent trip to visit a homeless shelter in Miami.
The members, along with others in the community, went to map out a plan on how to develop a similar shelter here.

In 18-24 months the city hopes to unveil a new homeless shelter like the one in Miami, equipped with tools to take in homeless people and put out citizens ready to stand on their own.

But that new shelter is facing two big hurdles: where to put it and how to pay for it.
The salvation army building is currently the leading contender, but other places like this one on Calhoun street are also being considered.

That consideration is not sitting well with developer john Darby.

"We wouldn't have developed Canal Side if we knew Broad River was an option to a permanent homeless facility," says Darby.

Downtown residents living near the salvation army are also presenting objections.

"I understand their position and the neighborhood's position. I haven't had a person say they want a shelter next to them. I think we found a model that seems to work and will work," says Mayor Bob Coble.

And the numbers are telling. Nearly 80% of the people who enter the program in Miami leave prepared to support themselves.
But the cost of running a high tech facility may be a price tag the city can't afford.

"We do not have a dedicated funding source like Miami. That dedicated funding source has allowed continuity, but it has also forced them to be responsible to a board that demands results. We have to have those principles in place," says Kirkman Finlay.

"We don't have the answer now, but the Miami model has worked because of a dedicated funding source," says Mayor Coble.

Two options for funding includes reallocating existing funds or creating a new tax. One thing everyone does agree on is the importance to get something done.

"We've got to stay focused on what we want and that's to improve the lines of our citizens both homeless and non-homeless," says Finlay.

The council plans to attack the issue again next week.

Reported by Stewart Moore

Posted by Logan Smith