The Daily Gamecock

Recent lawsuit against Columbia's zoning board without merit

Columbia community should be more open to proposed halfway house

In a surprising show of unity, several local Columbia businesses, churches, politicians and community organizations have come together to let their voice be heard by the city council. Unfortunately, they’ve all come together to let it be known that they won’t let a group of people they dislike become apart of their community.

And no, this time I’m not talking about the homeless. Instead, I’m referring to a recent lawsuit by some of our very own, like prominent lawyer Dick Harpootlian along with about 27 other plaintiffs, that would seek to forbid the establishment of a halfway house that would help nonviolent offenders reestablish their place in society.

I can somewhat understand why a few of my fellow citizens are in uproar about establishing another halfway house in downtown Columbia. The city already has a halfway house right off of the intersection of Gervais and Bull Street, they said, and they’re worried that placing a halfway house on Calhoun Street, which is only a block-and-a-half from the proposed Bull Street development site, could potentially dissuade potential residents or investors from taking up roots in our city.

These reasons, among others, are perfectly legitimate to raise and are especially important to note in a city that is desperately trying to revitalize its downtown area.

Its too late now, but it would have been nice if the city council would have listened more to the concerns of local residents before voting to allow the halfway house to be put in its proposed location and articulated their reasons for approving this project.

With that being said, placing a halfway house at the Calhoun site is the not only the most logical choice but the right choice as well. Doing so ensures that the nonviolent offenders who will live at the halfway house temporarily have access to their jobs, to their families and to a community that will hopefully support them as the try to put their lives back together.

To the diverse group of residents who are against this plan, I hope they reconsider their lawsuit and their position on the issue. We have a lot of wonderful resources here in Columbia, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t let people who are committed to rejoining society not have access to them.

We should all be proud of our city council’s proactive stance in helping uplift our fellow citizens, especially those citizens who need our help the most.

And besides, Columbia isn’t some sort of gated enclave that has guards at each of our borders to keep out all the “riff-raff” or undesirables out. We’re a city, or more importantly a community, and we should continue to be home for people of all different walks of life.