Columbia, SC — Charleston and Greenville do not have a downtown homeless problem because Charleston has 20 full-time policemen and Greenville has 14, all walking their central business district. They enforce the law against vagrancy, loitering and panhandling. Columbia has 400 policemen. Surely they could devote 10 or more to policing the central business district and enforce existing law. The police should be walking the streets, not riding around in patrol cars.
Most of the businesses in the central business districts pay property taxes . Others, like the University of South Carolina, federal, state and local government offices do not. Most homeless have severe emotional, mental and physical disorders. Thirty years ago they were housed and fed in the State Hospital on Bull Street. Their medications were staff-administered under supervision. Then a decision was made to release them to outpatient mental health centers.
It is now up to the individuals to take their medications; many do not and few, if any, keep their appointments at the mental health centers. Lastly, the downtown churches exacerbate the problem by providing free meals; this attracts the homeless. Feeding should only be provided at places like the Oliver Gospel Mission, Transitions at Main Street and Elmwood Avenue or at the proposed new center. The problem can be solved.