Columbia’s city manager believes there are anywhere from 100 to 200 homeless residents in town.
Sheltering the unhoused has been a top priority and challenge for city manager De’Carlon Seewood. He notes Columbia’s Room at the Inn (RATI) has moved into the former VFW Post 280 building on Ashley street. It’s located near the city’s municipal power plant.
“Instead of them moving from church to church, they now have a permanent location. I think when they were at most of the churches, the most people they could take is 30. Now their hope max (maximum) is 65, but I think over through the real cold spell I think they had over 100 people in there,” Seewood says.
Columbia’s city council approved the $865,000 purchase of the building and parking lots in October, and the city is spending another $490,000 on building improvements. The city is using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.
“There’s this goal of building a larger facility. The question is how do we make that work. And so my hope is that through using the Ashley street center we can actually start that template,” says Seewood.
The former VFW Post is a 14,000 square feet building with a seating capacity of 300. The Voluntary Action Center (VAC) hopes to build a larger 100 bed homeless shelter near the former VFW post and city power plant. It would include shower facilities, medical and dental clinics and laundry facilities.