Columbia City Council to address chronic homelessness

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COLUMBIA – The Columbia City Council is reviewing a report it requested about chronic homelessness in the city on Monday. 

The report looked into solutions to chronic homelessness, which is defined as “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”

According to the report, Columbia’s chronic homeless population has fluctuated between 250-325 people since 2012.

The accurate number is hard to get correct due to the high variability of voluntary participation. The report says it is also difficult to identify unsheltered homeless persons.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said the primary causes of homelessness in Columbia are poverty and a lack of affordable housing.

“There’s certainly a much repeated goal to increase the availability of affordable housing and that partially gets at that problem,” he said. “It is one of the priorities of the city, and it’s certainly one of my personal priorities.”

Thomas said chronic homelessness is not a large issue in Columbia because of the efforts made to provide affordable housing.

He said improvements could be made to offer more options to those in need.

Several homeless shelters in Columbia were unavailable for comment on Columbia's homeless situation.