Opponents and supporters battle over Columbia's homeless plan
By Rob Starkey
Mon, 26 Aug 2013 20:57:59 GMT — COLUMBIA (WACH) -- A group protesting a crackdown on Columbia's homeless were edged out of voicing their concern Monday, on a plan endorsed by part of city council. Those protesters were denied access to a news conference two city leaders attended at a Columbia attorney's office. "I'm disturbed that we weren't able to do our first hand listening because legal issues are one of the problems with this comprehensive plan," said Pamela Greenlaw. "The people outside the street are sensatlizing homelessness," said Eric Bland. Bland is a Columbia attorney, he says his Calhoun street office is the center for the city's homeless population. Bland says each day his property becomes a meeting place for those without a home and sometimes finds people sleeping on his porch. "You don't have a right to loiter, you don't have a right to harass and you certainly don't have a right to come onto my property and use it as a bathroom," adds Bland 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 Bland. "It's my city wither I actually live downtown or not this is about human beings and how we take care of one another," said Greenlaw. Runyans proposal is far from being policy at this point; City Council is set to take up the issue on September third. Some council members who originally voted for the plan are now questioning parts of the proposal.
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