Target: Columbia, South Carolina City Council
Goal: Condemn South Carolina city’s approval of a plan to exile or arrest its homeless population
Recently, the Columbia City Council in South Carolina unanimously passed a new measure known as the Emergency Homeless Response that aims to get rid of homeless people from the downtown business district. Homeless people in Columbia, South Carolina faced the daunting choice of either leaving the downtown area or getting arrested. There are 1,518 homeless people living in the Columbia area, and this new measure would either send homeless individuals to a distant and overcrowded shelter they cannot easily leave or pose the risk of the homeless individuals being locked up in a jail downtown. This plan is one of the most comprehensive anti-homeless measures that has been proposed and passed in recent U.S. history and must be condemned.
Police officers will be specifically assigned to patrol the center of the city in order to keep all homeless individuals out. Furthermore, the officers will enforce the city’s stringent “quality of life” laws which include bans on public urination, loitering and a plethora of other violations. To make sure that no stealthy homeless person circumvents these laws, the city plans to set up a hotline so that local residences and businesses have the ability to report any homeless person they see to police.
To aid the thousands of homeless people who will be banned, the city, with the assistance of local charities, will set up an emergency shelter just outside of Columbia that will be open twenty-four hours a day. However, the shelter will not be able to accommodate more than 240 sojourners, far less than the more than 1500 homeless people soon to be sent away from Columbia. Furthermore, homeless people can stay at the shelter but are not allowed to leave the premises whenever they please. To ensure that this happens, a police officer will be posted on the road that the homeless must take to get to the shelter to make sure that homeless people do not head towards downtown. In order to leave, the homeless must set up an appointment and be escorted by officials. Such a facility is a pseudo-jail for people who have the legal right to occupy public space and have autonomy over their own bodies.
Advocates for the homeless population are planning on filing a lawsuit to overturn this incompetent plan, invoking the premise that the plan directly violates the homeless population’s right to be treated equally under the law as well as their right to assemble. The idea that housing all of the homeless population in one massive and overcrowded shelter outside of the city has never worked to fix the homelessness problem in U.S. cities. Putting homeless people in jail or a pseudo-jail not only violates the constitution but is an abuse of power by city officials. This trend that has swept across the country of criminalizing homelessness is abhorrent and must be stopped. Please sign this petition to stop this ordinance as well as others across the country from stigmatizing homeless people and urge cities to look for alternative solutions to successfully address homelessness in America.
Dear Columbia City Council,
We condemn you for unanimously passing an anti-homeless plan that criminalizes homelessness in your city’s downtown business district. 1,518 homeless people currently reside in your district and face the daunting decision of either getting arrested or going to a massive homeless shelter on the outskirts of the city where they are not permitted to leave without permission. This abhorrent plan is one of the most comprehensive anti-homeless measures that has been passed in the past few decades and does little to mitigate homelessness.
This plan directly violates the right of homeless people to assemble as well as their right to be treated equally under the law. It reflects a recent trend that has swept across the country to criminalize homelessness. Please reconsider how you address the problem of homelessness in your city and formulate a more effective way of mitigating it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ray Rivera Photography via Flickr