Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Fixing the homeless problem in the city of Columbia has been a hot button issue and has now gained national attention.
Columbia City council has approved a plan to house the homeless in a shelter for seven months. Christ Central Ministries will be the organization responsible for running shelter that's set to open in less than twenty-days, but the CEO of the organization says they haven't even signed a contract.
"Christ Central will not be interested in running the winter shelter this seven months starting in September if there is not an agreement to start now planning; we would just perpetuate the problem," said Jimmy Jones, CEO of Christ Central Ministries.
Jones says fixing the homeless problem in our state takes a team. His organization would be responsible for transporting the homeless to and from the shelter as well as providing food and other needs, but with less than three weeks until the shelter is supposed to open; he says a contract needs to be signed.
"To get quality volunteers in place, buy enough vans to run the routes and to be able to provide all the things that are needed is a very short fuse."
The Winter Shelter Plan approved by city council has drawn much criticism.
The plan would make officers enforce the law of loitering and sleeping in public parks. Jones says the shelter is a good idea but it has to be more.
"Find a location that is peaceful and tranquil like a retreat setting meaning back away from the problem and then determine the problem and what will help the person."
Critics say isolating the homeless to one area outside of town is not the solution.
Jones would like to build a location in the Richland County area but hit a road block when he found out that County Council put a moratorium on building Shelters.
Council chairman Kelvin Washington says it is important to place shelters in the right location.
"In the unincorporated areas they have always said they are going to put these elements together to make sure it doesn't impact the community but it never materialized," said Washington.
Jones does not agree with the decision.
"When this county has the highest homeless population in the state and county council says we are not going to take lead by saying we are not going to do anything, I think some kind of overcoming fear needs to take place in county council," said Jones.
City council will meet again next week to discuss the issue and hopefully get a contract agreement done. Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago will also give input on how to fix the homeless problem.