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Columbia may see changes in the way help provided to homeless

The way people can help those experiencing homelessness in Columbia could be changed in the future.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As of Wednesday, the Task Force to Prevent and End Homelessness will no longer be meeting, but Mayor Daniel Rickenmann says the work is not done yet.

"We're going to get a written report, then start working in smaller groups so we can start to put the pieces together," Rickenmann explained. "At the end of the day I wish we could say that we can end homelessness but that's not realistic... I think we can massively reduce it."

At their final meeting, Task Force leader and City Councilwoman Aditi Bussells shared new ideas about free giveaways in the city.

Bussells proposed an ordinance that asks groups wanting to hand things out in public places to get a permit for these events, which would cost $150.

RELATED: Columbia homelessness task force talks about rapid shelter, proposed distributions ordinance

Public places are outlined as parks, recreation areas, parking facilities, sidewalks, and streets. If the new rules are passed by City Council distributions will have to happen in places that are close to public transit, and have adequate parking, lighting, and restrooms with handwashing areas.

The ordinance also asks that organizations handing things out, label each item with their name and the date of their event so the city can track litter.

"The deposit for the litter is $150. You're not paying $150 to get your permit it is simply a hold to make sure that after you leave, you've taken the cups, clothes, or whatever you're bringing with you. Otherwise, that is typically a cost that would be associated with labor, and getting our public works team out there to clean up," Bussells explained.  

RELATED: 50 mini homes coming to Columbia to offer temporary housing for homeless

If the ordinance passes, people who do not follow the new rules will face a fine of up to $250 on their first violation. 

However, Mackin Wall, who works in her church's soup cellar each week, says the permit and potential penalties may discourage some people from helping at all.

"A lot of these groups are just people that have ideas and say, 'Hey we should do something about this, so I think for smaller groups like that it would definitely affect them," Wall stated.

According to Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, the Homelessness Ad Hoc Committee has fulfilled its purpose. 

RELATED: New trailer to provide showers and washing machines for homeless in Kershaw County

"Collaboration is what we need moving forward because this will take everyone coming together to make real solutions," he said.

The giveaway ordinance still needs to be presented to the full council before it can be passed.

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