Columbia leaders continue homelessness debate

<font size="2">Columbia leaders are once again speaking out about the issue of homelessness in the capital city.</font>

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia leaders are once again speaking out about the issue of homelessness in the capital city.

Tuesday morning a group of business leaders discuss the importance of the Emergency Homeless Response Plan and what they call the dire economic impact of unaddressed poverty.

"What they see is a homeless situation that has spun out of control, a homeless situation that no one is having the courage to deal with,"


said Eric Bland.

Tuesday evening City Council is set to continue their debate on the homeless response plan, including operation of the city's emergency shelter through April 2014.

Earlier this month City Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal by Councilman Cameron Runyan that would open the city's Winter Shelter around the clock for six months.

"Giving them a place to eat, sleep, shower bathe and paring them up with service providers where they can get the help they need and return some dignity to their lives," said Runyan.

Runyan says the plan is similar to Greenville and Charleston's, pointing out Columbia has already arrested more homeless then ever before and the capital city is on pace for a 106 percent spike in arrests.

Opponents of the plan say it violates the rights of the people living on the streets; however supporters urge they're just enforcing laws all citizens are required to follow.

"Homelessness they enjoy the same rights as every citizen, they have the right to use the street, but you don't have a Constitutional right to live on the street," adds Columbia attorney Eric Bland.

I just want to make sure they think the plan through all the way and make sure that they are not ostracizing innocent people," said Barry Walker.

Tuesday's meeting begins at 6 p.m. the Eau Clair Print Building located at 3907 Ensor Avenue.