In case you somehow missed it, Tent City finally emptied out over the past week. The day-to-day coverage in local media ended with the capstone of capstones, the press conference, complete with a lectern, a gaggle of local TV microphones, and an assembly of people standing with their hands awkwardly folded in front of their bodies.
No doubt this is a great thing for the Charleston Brand ™. After all, tourist season is upon us. However, it's too bad people here for the Volvo Car Open might have caught a glimpse or two of the continuing reality of what life is like for the less fortunate people in the Holy City, but that's OK. The important thing is that Charleston came together and put homelessness back where it belongs — in smaller camps in other, more secluded areas, all of which are preferably located in North Charleston.
Today, it seems things are right back to where they were a couple of years ago when homeless camps were just a rumor. Of course, we now know they're out there, and so we have to do something about them — at the very least to save the brand — so the City of Charleston will be forming yet another commission for the study of homelessness. Once again, they'll approach the homeless problem in a manner that appears constructive yet falls short of offering any solution that may challenge our notions of capitalism, property ownership, and the like. In other words, they're not going to do a goddamn thing.
Even among those working on issues related to homelessness, there are probably some who have been offended by my columns on this subject over the last few months. Sorry, but the well-meaning liberal platitudes of "Patience, patience — we have a plan that we're working on" have worn thin for me, especially after decades of use and abuse. These plans involve little more than photo-ops and nonsense, direct-action set pieces that attract attention to any given problem just long enough to boost the number of volunteers and the amount of donations that charity groups receive.
And yet there are still homeless people in Charleston. In North Charleston. In South Carolina. Some visible, and some not. Some in tents, some in weekly hotels, some in their cars, or some in a friend or relative's spare room or on their couch. Yet the great Charleston showcase of life rolls on, mostly undisturbed by those left drowning in its wake.
Count the number of huge events and festivals that are held each year in Charleston. SEWE. Wine + Food. Fashion Week. Southern Ground Music & Food Festival. Dig South. Comedy Fest. Spoleto. Tourism dumps millions of dollars into the area's economy over the course of 12 months, and people will still be homeless. Despite all these strong economic indicators. Despite the millions upon millions of dollars funneled into charities over the last 30 years. Despite everything done to avoid the incontrovertible fact that our economic system is set up in such a way that there is simply not a net in place to catch everyone, and no one seems to find that all that upsetting. At least, not so upsetting that it can't be handled by yet another charitable organization "helping" to end homelessness but somehow not ending homelessness.
There is something fundamentally wrong with saying, again and again, that the solution is to have a group of citizens hold meetings about what to do. Even Mayor John Tecklenburg admitted that during the press conference last week, noting that a commission formed by former Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. years ago crafted "a plan that's been sitting on a shelf gathering dust."
While those plans gathered dust, more and more people lost their homes. Some even lost their lives. So please pardon me when I'm not impressed when people say, "Just wait. We're working on it."