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Columbia Set to Open S.C.’s First Homeless Court

October 6, 2014
George B. Cauthen

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Reprinted with permission from The State

Come January, the Capital City will have South Carolina’s first Homeless Court intended to help get people off the streets and their lives back on track, supporters said last week.

The new court is Columbia’s latest attempt at dealing with a large homeless population in the city center, a complex issue that has persisted despite years of effort. A crackdown in 2013 aimed at arresting people who refused to go to the city’s homeless shelter was softened after a public outcry that Columbia was trying to criminalize homelessness.

The court was authorized last month by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal as a pilot program that Toal said she hopes will become a model.

“The dream would be that one day the Legislature would deal with therapeutic courts all over the state,” said Toal, who on Sept. 23 signed an order creating Columbia’s Homeless Court, a largely volunteer program that is to operate in a corner of the large day room at Transitions.

Transitions is a homeless center at the threshold to Columbia’s Main Street business district and surrounding neighborhoods. The facility will allow space for the court starting Jan. 1, said 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson and George Cauthen, a local attorney who chairs a steering committee that has been working on the program for almost a year.

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