FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Homeless Plan Has Good Ideas (And Scary Ones)

by TOM & JUDY TURNIPSEED

Homelessness is finally catching the attention of the media, everyday people and even politicians in the Midlands of South Carolina. We’ve heard much about compassion, humanity, respect and some sensible approaches to ending homelessness.

A community approach to homelessness has challenged the Midlands for years. Recently, City Councilman Cameron Runyan has led on the issue. In April, he called for several public meetings to solicit solutions from our diverse community. People responded. Every meeting was full, with all seats taken and people lining the walls, eager to speak or hear others’ ideas. Council members and the mayor were there to hear from service providers such as Transitions Homeless Center, United Way and The Free Clinic, as well as from volunteers, neighborhoods, downtown business owners and the homeless themselves. Most speakers were positive and made excellent suggestions. A few spent their time painting the homeless as subhuman pariahs who must be eliminated from the community immediately.

On June 4, Councilman Runyan presented his report, “Columbia Cares: A Vision for Addressing Homelessness,” to Council and the public. The six goals Councilman Runyan synthesized from community input were aspirations most of us can agree on. The lofty ideals include bringing “humanity to the response” and meeting the “unique needs of the individuals in need.”

Other goals, some more specific, are ones we can rally around: “Create opportunities for people to work.” The homeless we know are crying out for jobs. Provide “public hygiene facilities.” The homeless and downtown residents agree on this. “Bring accountability to those in poverty.” As in the rest of the population, there are responsible homeless people and there are irresponsible homeless people who give the others a bad name. “Address root causes, not just symptoms.” Yes!

We support the report’s proposal of an induction center, a “one-stop shop” triage to identify the needs of the homeless and direct them to community resources. The greater Columbia community can probably agree on that as an efficient way to assist the homeless toward overcoming the obstacles on their way to self-sufficient living.

Then comes the scary part. Councilman Runyan’s plan also contains ideas that volunteers in the homeless community believe smack of banishment, exile and the questionable redirecting of personal assets. These ideas we will oppose as strongly as we support the positive ones.

Leave Town

The plan states that if the homeless violate existing laws — such as loitering, panhandling or urban camping — they must go to the induction center, go to jail or leave town. How convenient! Banishment is one way of clearing Columbia’s streets of undesirables. The plan no doubt includes this last option of getting the homeless out of town in hopes of sending our problems away for someone else to deal with, rather than facing them ourselves. Surely those of all faiths are struck by how far afield that approach is from the admonition of our faith tradition to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.

Go to the Retreat

Scary idea number two is sending those found physically or mentally deficient to a proposed facility called The Retreat. This facility, a 100-plus-acre privately owned facility 10 to 15 miles outside of town, is referred to in the plan as the shelter of last resort. So we are separating outcasts with physical, mental and social problems from the mainstream of our culture and sending them to a “Retreat” where they will take part in a work program and be concentrated away from civil society. Makes us mindful of the giant sign across the main entrance of the Auschwitz work camp in Poland: Arbeit macht frei; labor makes you free.

Redirect Resources

The Funding the System section of the “Columbia Cares” report states that the cost of the retreat facility and other programs will be defrayed in part by “payments currently being lost” such as food stamps, housing and disability. These items will be redirected to the provider of the service. This sounds like a plan to have the residents’ Social Security disability checks turned over to the provider. This will certainly require new legislation — and the plan is appalling.

We who volunteer with the homeless will strongly support positive solutions to ending homelessness — and will work to let the public know the whole story when plans are made concerning the homeless.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is http://tomandjudyonablog.blogspot.com/He and wife Judy are sponsors of Homeless Helping Homeless and  work 15 hours a week on homeless issues

More articles by:
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Renee Parsons
Blame It on the Russians
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is it the Cops or the Cameras? Putting Police Brutality in Historical Context
Russell Mokhiber
Dems Dropping the N Word: When in Trouble, Blame Ralph
Howard Lisnoff
The Elephant in the Living Room
Pepe Escobar
The Real Secret of the South China Sea
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Yarmouk: A Palestinian Refugee’s Journey from Izmir to Greece
John Laforge
Wild Turkey with H-Bombs: Failed Coup Raise Calls for Denuclearization
Dave Lindorff
Moving Beyond the Sanders Campaign
Jill Richardson
There’s No Such Thing as a “Free Market”
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Moves Against the Gulen Movement in Turkey
Winslow Myers
Beyond Drift
Edward Martin - Mateo Pimentel
Who Are The Real Pariahs This Election?
Jan Oberg
The Clintons Celebrated, But Likely a Disaster for the Rest of the World
Johnny Gaunt
Brexit: the British Working Class has Just Yawned Awake
Mark Weisbrot
Attacking Trump for the Few Sensible Things He Says is Both Bad Politics and Bad Strategy
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Think Three’s a Crowd? Try 2,000
Corrine Fletcher
White Silence is Violence: How to be a White Accomplice
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail