Target: Columbia City Council
Goal: Criticize the new ordinance in Columbia, South Carolina that allows police to arrest homeless individuals
Under a new city law, homeless individuals in Columbia, South Carolina will have to either vacate the downtown area or get arrested by city police. The recent ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the Columbia City Council is a part of the city’s new Emergency Homeless Response plan. The plan seeks to remove homeless people from the city’s business district. Proponents of the legislation claim it is intended to improve the quality of life for residents of Columbia.
Under the plan, city police officers will be assigned to patrol the downtown area and keep homeless people out. The “quality of life” laws that make up the plan include bans on loitering, public urination, and sleeping on sidewalks. The city will go one step further by setting up a hotline that will allow local businesses and city residents to report the presence of homeless individuals to the police.
The city has made feeble attempts to compensate for the displacement of homeless people from the city center by partnering with a local charity to keep a 24-hour emergency shelter on Columbia’s outskirts. However, the shelter can only accommodate 240 guests, and the local homeless population is six times larger than the number of available beds at the shelter.
The shelter clearly does not offer a convenient or accessible alternative for the hundreds of homeless people who will be displaced from the city. Columbia’s plan is the latest addition to widespread national efforts to police and criminalize homelessness. Laws such as these in no way address how to solve homelessness and bring people out of poverty. Sign the petition below to condemn the Columbia City Council for these measures and urge the city to stop arresting innocent homeless people.
Dear Columbia City Council,
The recently passed Emergency Homeless Response plan unfairly punishes homeless individuals. By stationing police officers throughout the city in order to keep homeless people out and arrest individuals who do not comply, you’re displacing these people and pushing them out with no place to go. The emergency shelter the city has set up can not possibly accommodate Columbia’s 1,518 homeless people.
Further, the plan is a waste of city resources. Police officers should be tasked with addressing actual crime and safety problems in the city, not with acting as guards forcing people out of the city. I urge you to reverse these measures that criminalize homelessness and to dedicate yourselves to providing protections to all people of Columbia.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Bryan via WikiMedia Commons