Homelessness is now a crime in Columbia, South Carolina after the city council passed a plan entitled “Emergency Homeless Response” that bans vagrants from the region’s downtown area.
Councilman Cameron Runyan initiated the plan, and it will see police officers patrol the city center and enforce the city’s new “quality of life” laws that ban loitering and public urination. Officers will also be told to keep the homeless out of the city center, and, if they refuse to go, they will then be arrested.
However, the city has started to work with a charity to keep an emergency shelter open 24 hours a day, which is located just outside of the designated area.
There are still rules though, which includes, once a homeless person enters the building they are not allowed to leave, and the shelter can only hold up to 240 guests. Also, in order to leave the shelter, visitors will need to have an appointment, and they will then be ferried out by a van to that location.
Michael Stoops, the Director of Community Organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless, isn’t happy with the new measure though.
He told ThinkProgress, “[This is the] most comprehensive anti-homeless measure that [he had] ever seen proposed in any city in the last 30 years. Using one massive shelter on the outskirts to house all a city’s homeless is something that has never worked anywhere in the country.”
There are reportedly 1,518 homeless people currently living in Columbia, which is six times the capacity of the shelter in town.
Susan Dunn, South Carolina ACLU’s legal director, remarked, “The underlying design is that they want the homeless not to be visible in downtown Columbia. You can shuttle them somewhere or you can go to jail. That’s, in fact, an abuse of power.”
Homeless campaigners are now hoping to help overturn this new plan, as the believe it violates their rights.
[Image via HABRDA/Shutterstock]