Representative calling on Lowcountry mayors to move 'Tent City' occupants to public housing

Published: Jan. 22, 2016 at 11:07 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2016 at 10:38 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - State Representative Wendell Gilliard is calling on the mayors of Charleston and North Charleston to make empty public housing units available to residents of "Tent City" as a winter storm hits the East Coast.

Tent City is an area beneath an interstate ramp in Charleston where dozens of the city's homeless live in tents.

"...There are a number of available units in public housing which are unoccupied which could serve as proper shelter to those who are living in the outdoor elements and are set to endure this weekend's treacherous conditions," reads a press release sent by the representative. "Upwards of over 100 people currently occupy space underneath the Ravenel Bridge and overpasses in Charleston along with outdoor spaces near North Charleston City Hall."

In the statement, Gilliard argues it is deplorable to think local governments would allow people to weather the storm in tents outdoors while public housing units remain unoccupied.

The representative wants both mayors Tecklenburg and Summey to allow people living tents in their cities to be transferred to the housing units.

The statement was released at an emergency meeting Friday, aiming to come up with a plan to eliminate homelessness in the Lowcountry and the state.

A representative at the meeting says the city of Charleston has a wait list with over 1,000 people looking to move into public housing.

The request to declare South Carolina in a state of emergency to deal with homelessness was sent to Governor Haley's desk four months ago. State representative Wendell Gilliard said before the meeting that he's taking manners into his own hand since she hasn't responded. According to the representative's statement, Gilliard plans on introducing a resolution to the State House to make public housing available to those in need.

Representatives from the Department of Transportation, the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition, the city, county and state attended Friday's meeting.Short and long term solutions were discussed, ranging from tiny house communities to renovating the old naval barracks into a low-impact shelter.

No plans were solidified, but leaders agree state and local funds are needed to address the problem. Local volunteers will also work to pool resources and work collectively.

"It's a difficult issue, but there are solutions," Anthony Haro, executive director of the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition said. "Homelessness at it's core, is lack of housing. We have to have a clear idea of what it's going to take to help every single person living in encampments, not just in the peninsula but everyone in our county, into housing."

Haro said permanent housing is the well-researched solution.

The South Carolina Coalition for Homelessness says there are roughly 6,000 people who are homeless or without a stable home in the state. Live 5 also reached out to the governor's office  for a response.

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