Columbia, SC (WLTX) - If you drive in downtown Columbia you may see the homeless sleeping on park benches or walking around Finlay Park.
This week city council approved a plan to get homeless off the street and it could land some of them in jail.
Starting September 15th if homeless are caught loitering or sleeping in public parks they will be arrested, or a possible option will be to stay here at the cities winter shelter, three miles away from downtown.
"I think it violates their constitutional rights," said Tom Turnipseed.
Tom and his wife Judy provide food to the homeless every week and after hearing that city council voted to tighten laws on the homeless they're quite upset.
"People that can't fit in we are going to send them to a camp outside of town and that sounds a lot like a country out in Europe a few year ago, like we are going to send them out to some camp."
This week council approved the plan proposed by Councilman Cameron Runyan. The plan would open the winter shelter for seven months and stop feeding programs in public parks.
Critics say it's too strict but Runyan says its enforcing laws that are already on the books.
"Panhandling, drunkenness, urban camping, loitering, all the laws that you and I would get arrested for the homeless would also have to abide by," said Runyan.
Runyan says it will be a 24/7 shelter with meals every day. Transportation will be provided to help the homeless look for jobs and take them to get medical help if needed.
"Our goal is to not keep people in the shelter, our goal is to have people there one to seven days until we can connect them with the service provider, get them into a bed, get them into a program, get them into the help they need. We are not going to be in the warehousing business, our goal is to get them off the streets and get them to have a much higher quality of life."
For places like the Oliver Gospel Mission who provide housing at night for homeless men and Transitions that provides help during the day. Runyan says that won't change but during the times that they are not at those shelters the same laws will apply.
Judy says this plan is like turning the city into a gated community.
"Adopting unanimously Cameron Runyan's plan, which I think is a very extreme plan was a mistake."
She and her husband believe this is a ploy to isolate the homeless from downtown businesses.
"It's going to take time for those folks to understand that that isn't what we are trying to do, I don't think they are going to believe it until they see what we are trying to do," said Runyan.
Even though this is already a done deal with council unanimously approving the plan some homeless advocacy groups are planning on suing the city.
Runyan says it will cost about one-point-seven million dollars to fund the project. He says most of the money will come from community partners like Christ Central Ministries.