08/30/2013 03:41 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2013

These Bans On The Homeless Aren't Just Offensive, They Don't Work


Last week, the City Council of Columbia, South Carolina approved the urgently titled “Emergency Homeless Response” plan. The "emergency" being addressed is the existence of homeless people in downtown Columbia, who city officials blame for slowing recent economic growth in the capital (to be fair, the Palmetto State has been hurting since the Department of Defense made big cuts in the state's funding). The solution developed by Councilman Cameron Runyan is simple: ban homeless people from the city.

The new legislation, which has been described by one advocate for the homeless as the most comprehensive anti-homeless measure passed in 30 years, would force the homeless in Columbia to either check in at a remote shelter outside the city, leave town, or be thrown in jail. To make the plan stick, law enforcement officers will be stationed near the shelter to prevent homeless individuals from returning to the city, and bolstered police patrols will sweep the city to arrest and relocate any homeless person committing minor violations. A hotline will be set up so residents can report any homeless people who escaped the dragnet.

The plan lacks empathy. But that’s not the most frustrating part.