Residents living near the site of a proposed 24-hour homeless drop-in shelter reviewed plans for the building Tuesday night. The Columbia Alliance to Combat Homelessness, CATCH, presented preliminary building plans to members of the North Central and North Village neighborhood associations.
CATCH proposed to build a 50-person capacity shelter on a 21,400 square foot lot on North Eighth Street. The land was purchased by the Columbia city council in April 2014 for about $80,000. In June, the Community Development Commission voted 5-3 in support of the proposal that would grant $44,634 to fund the design of the center. Now the proposal includes a timeline, budget and a preliminary floor plan for the development.
John Hooker lives on Fairview Avenue just a block away from the proposed shelter location. He said he is concerned for his three daughters with the homeless traffic that already runs on his street due to the homeless program at the Wilkes Boulevard Methodist Church.
“We have guys regularly walking past the house, going from begging on the streets, to the church to be fed, to buying drugs on my street, I’ve had them pass out in my lawn, we’ve seen them masturbating right around the corner from my house, they’ve rifled through all of my neighbors cars,” Hooker said. “You know, it’s just a real concern as a parent to have this concentrated next to a residential area.”
Many in attendance, like Hooker, said they are concerned that a year-round shelter will only worsen problems surrounding homelessness in their neighborhood.
One of Columbia’s current shelter programs, Room at the Inn, provides warmth and safety to homeless people between December and February and relocates every two to three weeks between four Columbia churches.
CATCH board member and Broadway Christian Church Pastor Tim Carson says the proposed year-round shelter would provide consistency during both the heat and the cold, and would ideally provide resources to help struggling people land on their feet.
“The points that stuck out to me was they they’re having difficulties in their neighborhoods already and they’re highly frustrated by some of the establishments that they’re close to, already experiencing problems with drugs, alcohol, vagrancy and those kinds of things that are so difficult to deal with and so they’re wondering if what we’re talking about is going to magnify that or even bring more of that to them,” Carson said.
Carson says he hopes this shelter would alleviate the many problems and concerns of residents, and actually provide resources that may be beneficial to the community.
Hooker, however, says he doesn’t believe there is any way to avoid these problems if the shelter is built.
“I’ve lived next to the Saint Francis House and the New Life Evangelistic for ten years now, both rehabilitation shelters that work to help those people and families, and we haven’t had any problems with them,” Hooker said. “This is going to be a drop-in shelter where people are going to come to stay the night, maybe a week, when the shelter is full and there’s no room for some people, they’re going to wander the streets during the day or night and it’s a serious security concern for everybody who lives there, especially people who have children.”
Carson said the next step is for the CATCH board to meet and discuss the points brought up by residents. City Council will vote on October 19th to determine whether or not it will fund the $44,634 needed to begin the engineering and architectural design for the shelter.