Plague or Cottage Industry Part 3: Tying it all together! Politics and money!

Finally the most difficult thing to explain in this series of articles.  There is a lot of politics behind this entire issue.  Not just in this city but in others all across the nation as well.  They range from how do we house and feed these people to just plain throw them out-of-town.  It’s truly amazing what lengths local politicians will go to stay in power indefinitely.  Without further ado, here we go again.

First let me answer the title of this and the other two parts.  Is this a plague or a cottage industry?  In the view of the local politicians of Columbia, the homeless are a plague on a town they are trying with little success to rejuvenate downtown.  What do they blame the homeless of?  Are the accusations true?  Interestingly enough, the city council blames everything on the homeless.  Well, let me be more accurate.  City council blames the homeless for every bad thing that happens in downtown even if we aren’t doing the so-called crime.  We get blamed for broken beer bottles (there are 2 bars located on main street), breaking and entering (one store got broken into three times in one week), as well as public drunkenness, public urination, and last but not least public defecation.  Yes defecation.

I can only say one thing to city counsel.  The homeless don’t do everything you lump on us.  In most cases, like in other cases, only about 1% of the homeless are those that steal or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves. Most homeless want nothing more than a good paying job (one that pays enough to get off the street) and to be left alone much like the rest of society.  If anything, the homeless are the biggest victims of today’s society.

The homeless in Columbia, South Carolina have fallen victim not just to the politicians, but to themselves as well.  Like the society in a hen house, man has his own pecking order.  It’s not so much the strongest survive but the most creative liars, cheaters, or thieves that survive.  In the light of the homeless, it’s those that jump food serving lines, take more than they could possibly use in clothing lines, or in general make a nuisance of themselves in other manners including panhandling.  These are the lowest forms of homelessness.  These are much like our whining, thieving, cheating politicians and corporate CEO’s of today.

These people get ahead of things or they think they are doing so.  What they don’t seem to realize is they are alienating themselves from society.  Look at what’s going on in politics on the national level.  Same case here.  Politicians cut services to everyone but themselves.  CEO’s cut jobs for bigger bonuses.  It’s a vicious circle that has to end.

Currently, or in the past, several city counsel members of Columbia, South Carolina have been or are currently under federal investigation.  In the case of the current city counsel, there are three under direct investigation for misuse of Housing and Urban Development funds.  What little I know of this is from local news and it’s pretty well been quashed.  However, the investigation is continuing from all I currently know.  Frankly, I think they should investigate the entire city counsel and the mayor for corruption.  Yes, I said corruption.

Case in point, Oliver Gospel Mission is still allowed to operate in a building that should have been condemned 60 years ago.  In my prior posting I talked about the fire hazard in that building.  Now I’m going to speculate on how they get to keep this open.  Actually, I don’t believe it to be a speculation.

Here’s how Oliver Gospel Mission stays open.  Both the fire marshal and and state Department of Health Education and Welfare (DHEC) call up the mission prior to any inspections and they are alerted to an inspection.  This I know happens in many other cities as well as on a federal level.  Think OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Authority).  They do the same thing.  Usually this results in far fewer fines if any. In this case, no fines are leveled against Oliver Gospel Mission.  There is also an occupancy limit in the mission for during meals, during chapel, and berthing.  They may not exceed the berthing limit, though it is over crowded, but every time I’ve attended chapel or ate a meal there, they violated the occupancy limit by at least 20 people if not more.  Had a fire broke out in there during those particular times, there would have been deaths from exiting the building not just from the fire itself.  Of course I’ve witnessed this issue as well as a cook in Oliver Gospel Mission who continues to refuse to put his hair up in a net.  His “dreadlocks” are midway down his back and he has an issue with wearing them in a net during mealtimes while serving food.  He wears them down including several of the “locks” in front of his apron.  This is in blatant violation of health standards and he’s been spoken to several times before about this.  He’s yet to be fired and goes back to the same thing after a few days of wearing his hair up to keep the management off his behind.  I’ve spoken to the head cook twice.  Last time he told me that one of the managers “would not” hire someone else to replace this cook when they could fire him on cause alone.

As to Transitions, it’s brand new last year.  There shouldn’t be any issues either DHEC or the fire marshal need to do anything about.  Management keeps a tight lid on problems there and there is NO overcrowding whatsoever.  People there are not required to attend chapel or anything like Oliver Gospel Mission.  Last I knew, even those that were homeless and not living there could come in and do laundry as well as take a shower.  I look at those offerings and think.  Gee, this seems like a nice place.  Wrong.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

This year, the state of South Carolina chopped funding for state run mental institutes and booted a bunch out of those facilities stating that the community could take better care of those individuals.  Transitions picks up the slack where the state refuses to fund their own facilities.  They have 70 beds specifically for those mental patients who don’t have family or any way of getting help.  Do they get help if they come in there.  I can’t tell as I’ve not investigated that end of things.  However, I’ve heard some pretty horrible stories about the mental patients they house there.  Instead of the transients causing problems, it’s the mental patients there causing issues that have brought the police down there more than not.  And they have caused other issues where people who are normally good people get banned from those facilities.

Now we come to the cities own winter shelter.  This is run by the city from November 1st till the following April 1st or until temperatures get above 40 after the 1st of April.  The one time I tried it before their move, it was a pigsty.  Once they moved it, there were just as many fights and issues as before.  To be fair though, I’m told they are improving.  Still, I have no trust in this place being even remotely fit to live in after the first time I tried the city run place.  They also have started using high school gymnasiums when the main shelter is overfull.  It’s a step in the right direction even if they do overcrowd the place to begin with.  Do they get inspected by the state and local officials?  That I’m unsure of.  However, the one thing I can be assured of is, it’s run for the city’s profit and not to help the homeless.

It goes on and on and on.  Further implications of the cities politicians being discriminatory because their bribing constituents want us gone as well as the politicians themselves is the way the push through laws though not discriminatory in the way they are written but in the way they are enforced.  Two such ordinances come to mind.  One is the sleeping in city parks.  Less than 2 years ago they had the police go through Finley Park and cite all the homeless there sleeping on park property.  When you enter the park, if you read the rules there, they do not say a word of such an ordinance.  Not only that but the police did NOT cite people who were not homeless when they too were sleeping.  Again, this is just one shining example of perverse laws.  Next is the so called “Urban Camping” ordinance.  This was quoted in the last issue but I’ll go on about it here.  It as well as the prior ordinance is being used to target the homeless and get them out of downtown where ALL the services they need are.  I can’t wait till this summer when they have the police walk through Finley Park again and issue citations.  I’ll bet there will be more tickets for homeless sleeping or as classified before “Urban Camping” than those that are in the park sunning themselves on a blanket.

Oh, let me say a word on Columbia’s finest (i.e. police department).  Word that the homeless and even some of the tax payers have on CPD is that they are “uniformed gang members.”  I can’t say that as most of their officers have been friendly with me and not given me any reason to complain about their performance.  However, they have become the aforementioned “uniform gang members” with a number of homeless and I’ve come to find myself harassed by one said officer.  He seems to think I’m a special project of his.  I won’t say what happened that caused this as I want him to continue his harassment.  Can we say lawsuit?  Yes, that’s my next step for this officer.  There are one or two other officers on the force of CPD that are just like this guy.  They are nothing more than bullies or people who don’t want to face their real job which is to protect and serve those that pay there checks.  It’s a known fact that the CPD captain is following city councils orders instead of the letter of the law when the homeless are constantly rousted.  When they do have a real crime in town (one of the breaking and enterings) it takes an officer an average of 8 minutes to get to the location even when there is one around the corner.  Yes, I’ve witnessed just that.  And lets not go to enforcing speeding and traffic light ordinances.  These alone could put the city government in the black monetarily if enforced to the letter.  If the CPD isn’t harassing the homeless their in the local coffee shops.  Two mornings ago, my friend who is also homeless witnessed no less than 10 police cars outside IHop in downtown.  No it wasn’t being robbed.  They were there doing not a darn thing in the last 2 hours of their shift.  Do you call that to serve and protect?  I don’t.  If I did that on any job I had I’d have been fired straight away.

Now, let me not forget the mayor of this town.  He was elected and not more than an hour after he was elected he struck another lady’s car and darn near killed the lady.  I’m certain there is still a pending civil suit.  If not can we say “payoff.”   The newspapers here were full of speculations.  Most were probably true.  The mayor probably did have his lights off.  He most certainly was under the influence of alcohol.  But, when you have money you can buy the law.  Well, in this case it cost the last CPD captain his job.  Did the mayor look out for this guy and help him get another job.  Fat chance.  This situation was corrupt from the get go.  It took them two hours to get an someone of authority to decide how the investigation was  to go.  And then it should have been handled by the state police or county police instead of the local CPD.  He’s still mayor today and has a wife as a local judge even though it represents a conflict of interest in a number of situations.   More than likely he will not be re-elected.

And they (city council, mayor, and an scant few others) call us a plague.  Yeah right.  While they are calling us a plague there are others who use us to their advantage.  This was discussed in the feeding part of this series.  Many local churches owe the homeless a great deal.  Had it not been for feeding us bare minimums and charging outrageous administrative fees, they wouldn’t have had special renovation projects unless the church members themselves paid for that.  Would they?  I doubt seriously they would.

Another thing, there are no less than four and maybe as many as six “day” labor places within 5 miles of downtown.  Most are legitimate businesses.  But, they too,  rob from the people who use them to make a living when they can’t get work otherwise.  If you don’t have transportation they charge you for it.  Lunch you ask?  They charge you for that when it’s not much more than a bologna sandwich and maybe a bag of chips.  Yes, these people feed off our problems as well.

Now who is really the plague here.  Certainly not the homeless.  However, you yourself should be able to see that these people who put us down the most are in fact using us as a cottage industry to fill their pockets with hard working American’s dollars meant to help those in need.  Need I say more?

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