City of Columbia enforcing six year old ordinance that requires groups to pay a deposit and hourly fee to feed homeless in city's parks.


Columbia, SC (WLTX) - For many charities, collecting food or clothing or even feeding those less fortunate is part of their DNA.

The City of Columbia is now enforcing a six-year-old ordinance that requires those charities that want to feed or minister to homeless in parks will have to pay the city $75 an hour for the priveledge.

"It feels like someone ripped my gut out," says Oscar Gasden of "Keepin It Real Ministry".

Gadsden's ministry has been feeding the homeless in Finlay Park for the last eight years. But now that park officials are enforcing the city's ordinance, he says it's harder to help.

"We've been out of the park for two weeks now, " he said.

The ministry usually feeds the homeless every Thursday and Sunday at the park, but for the last two weeks have broken their eight year streak because they can't afford the fees.

"It's a $350 deposit to feed in the park and then $75 per hour, " said Gadsden.

Gadsden has a special affinity for the homeless and knows first-hand how many people rely on ministries like his to offer help through food and clothing.

"I was homeless for six years on the street. God blessed me and took me from that point. He sent me back to minister to the people and how them that he blessed me to get me off the street and he can bless them too."

"We've had several incidents at our park, " according to assistant city manager and former parks and recreation director Allison Baker. She says that several small organizations would have events in the parks and leave it covered in trash.

"We realized that we do have this on the books so we need to enforce it, " said Baker.

The ordinance has been on the books since 2008, and the fact that the city has decided to enforce the ordinance two weeks ago has many of the advocacy groups upset and now the city is thinking about changing the ordinance.

"That may be a fee that needs to be adjusted", said Baker, "So we have been in discussion with the city manager and the city attorney about looking to adjust that fee to make it more equitable for what the smaller groups and ones that only use the park for a few hours."

For now, says Baker, until the city decides what changes need to be made, fees for the smaller groups will be waived.

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