South Carolina's Capital Declares War on Homeless

Fearing that a growing homeless population threatens 'the new Southern hot spot', public officials in Columbia, South Carolina have instigated an aggressive program to rid the city's downtown of its neediest residents.
August 26, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Buy a unanimous vote, Columbia's City Council "approved a plan this month that will essentially evict [the city's homeless] from downtown streets," reports Alan Blinder. In a city celebrating an economic surge, "[t]he unanimous vote epitomized how Columbia’s dueling realities — a rush of self-confidence among political and business leaders and continuing poverty for others — have become driving forces of public policy."

"City officials have clashed about what precisely the Council approved during a marathon meeting, but [Councilman Cameron] Runyan said the intent of his strategy was to increase enforcement of existing vagrancy laws and offer the homeless three options: accept help at a shelter, go to jail or leave Columbia," notes Blinder.

“These kinds of proposals are happening more and more around the country,” said Robert Adelman, a sociologist at the University at Buffalo. “But to me, all of these ordinances and policies just redistribute homeless persons. They don’t solve the problem of homelessness. You can’t jail people out of homelessness.”

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Published on Sunday, August 25, 2013 in The New York Times
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