City council members in Columbia, S.C., recently voted unanimously to criminalize homelessness.
Concerned that Columbia has become a “magnet for homeless people,” and that businesses and the area’s safety are suffering as a result, council members agreed on Aug. 14 to give people on the streets the option to either relocate, or get arrested, according to the city’s “Emergency Homeless Response” report.
Cooperative homeless people will be given the option to go to a remote 240-person bed emergency shelter, which will be open from September to March. The shelter will also be used as a drop-off for people recently released from prison and jail, too.
What businesses probably want here is freedom from disruptive people who make their guests’ lives difficult. To that, I’m sympathetic, having had to amscray my share of yelly drunks from various lobbies and stoops throughout my storied career. However, there are laws about those folks already, and they involve public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, harrassment, restraining orders and the like. The problem with yelly drunks isn’t that they don’t have a permanent address, it’s that they’re at mine puking in the potted plants.
Yelly drunks do not equal all homeless people, however, and arresting a mom with two kids who’s living in her car because she got sick and lost her job is not going to make her more likely to get another job or feel better. I’m also not crazy about generally law-abiding people who’ve gotten the fuzzy end of life’s lollipop being forcibly housed next to recently released prison inmates in one big barn of “people we think don’t matter.”
This helps people get on their feet and no longer be homeless how, exactly?