The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Holistic focus necessary to aid homeless

City council’s plan to solve the homelessness problem through eviction isn’t much of a plan at all.

As Columbia begins to enjoy a long-awaited and much-needed surge in development and vibrancy downtown, the city finds itself tested by a homelessness problem that’s risen in notoriety in recent weeks.

The city’s response to the growing concern that Columbia is becoming a “magnet for homeless people” isn’t much of a solution at all. The plan: To effectively evict the homeless. Homeless people will be forced to choose between going to a shelter far from downtown, leaving town or possibly heading to jail.

The county’s homeless population totals about 1,500 by the latest count, but the city’s planned 24-hour emergency shelter only holds 240 beds.

The difference highlights at least one basic flaw in City Council’s decision: There isn’t adequate affordable housing for the homeless, and council’s current plan does nothing to solve that. City leaders are more focused on eviction than resolution, and that’s an unwise fix for a problem that Columbia has struggled with for years.

In the last week, Columbia and its plan have appeared in The New York Times and the Huffington Post, among other national media, and we have to think that sort of negative attention isn’t doing much to help the city build a fresh new image or attract business. Instead, it shows that Columbia wants a quick fix instead of a long-term solution.
If Columbia wants to grow into a high-caliber city or a regional business hub, its administration will need to focus on the latter.

The city has gathered considerable momentum recently, with Main Street’s resurgence and Bull Street’s planned revival.

But to be a wholly great city, Columbia needs to focus not only on its businesses and its well-to-do citizens. It must find a meaningful solution to help its homeless, not leave them behind.