Sunday, October 23, 2022

'Time to start working together:' Pastor asks Columbia Borough Council for aid regarding homeless population

When: Columbia Borough Council meeting, Oct. 11.

What happened: A pastor's plea for council's help to deal with Columbia's homeless population spurred a 35-minute discussion on how handle the problem of keeping residents safe while helping others receive housing, jobs and counseling.

Quotable: "I do believe it's time to start working together," said David Powers, the Columbia Presbyterian Church pastor who leads Hands Across The Street, a charity that has helped homeless people since 2010.

Issues: The organization has to relocate its homeless shelter at 291. S. Fourth St. because the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, which owns the building, plans to lease it to another congregation. The shelter will have to move in late March or early April, Powers said. In addition, nearby residents have complained about noise and vagrancy around the shelter.

Finance: Evan Gabel, borough solicitor, noted that rules probably prohibit council from donating any money.

Quotable: "What I really want is a dialogue," Powers said. "Homeless people are people. I really don't want to be on two sides of a trench."

Council comments: "We've outgrown what we can handle," Council President Heather Zink said about the borough's homeless population. Eric Kauffman, council vice president, said, "We do have compassion and empathy for all people, but our priority, as borough officials, is the taxpayer of Columbia Borough. When we put them in harm's way, we're doing an injustice."

Response: Powers noted that the shelter has helped several Columbia families find housing and jobs.


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