© SOTT.net
You know when you read something, but then it's so ridiculous you have to do more research to find out whether it's actually true?

Case in point, a story this week about a South Carolina city which has taken steps to "exile its homeless."

The story suggested the city council in Columbia, S.C., had unanimously approved an "emergency homeless response" plan which will ban homeless people from the central business district and authorize police to arrest any homeless person found within the no-homeless zone.

A hotline will be established for residents and merchants to report the presence of a homeless person to police, who will be obliged to move them along.

Surely that can't be true, I thought. Sadly, it is.

The council of Columbia will partner with a local charity to operate a 24-hour emergency shelter on the outskirts of town, however it's unlikely the 240-bed shelter will be sufficient for the city's estimated 1,500 homeless people. And once someone enters the shelter, they are not allowed to leave the premises unless they set up an appointment to be driven out by a van.

A police officer will be posted on the road leading toward downtown to ensure homeless people stay away.

Seriously, this is happening, right now, in the United States.

And it's not only Columbia. The Florida cities of Miami and Tampa and Palo Alto, Calif., have all passed legislation this year essentially making homelessness illegal.

It's difficult to denounce strongly enough such a backward approach to a serious social problem.

Thankfully, officials in this country have taken a more humane approach. The federal government has pledged to continue the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which funds projects to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Locally, officials with Wellington County's social services department - which administers such services for Guelph as well as the county - are close to completing the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, as required under the provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

The province has invested $246 million in the initiative for 2013-14.

The local plan will include a range of actions, including helping low-income households close the gap between income and housing expenses, providing a range of supports to help those at risk of homelessness to remain housed and offering supportive housing to those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

The plan will not be perfect, of course, nor will it solve all of the issues it is intended to address.

But any plan that treats vulnerable citizens as human beings in need of help, rather than dirt to be pushed aside and ignored, is one worth supporting.