Community compassion in action

Tents have been set up on both sides of Meeting Street under the bridge and interstate overpasses. (Wade Spees/Staff)

Mayor John Tecklenburg meant business when he announced a 10-point plan on Thursday to clean up the so-called Tent City at the foot of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge and find permanent housing for its well over 100 residents.

The effort was under way less than 24 hours later.

By Friday morning at least one former Tent City resident had been helped into permanent housing by Family Services. More residents will be moved into long-term housing over the next two months, and those who still need a place to stay will be given emergency shelter at nearby One80 Place until permanent residences can be found.

Over the weekend, the S.C. Department of Transportation will begin trash clean-up. The DOT currently owns the land where most of the tents are set up, although another important step will be for the city of Charleston to lease the land.

That effort will require the agreement of City Council. But taking over the property in order to better oversee it is a logical move and one that deserves council’s support.

The rest of the plan’s 10 steps involve coordinating community efforts and bolstering the work of charities and churches in helping the city’s homeless community. A “blue ribbon” committee will be established to work on long-term solutions.

In a particularly creative move, the city will set up a website to allow the public to make donations in support of the homeless. Donations will kick off with $35,000 from the city and $15,000 from the 2016 Charleston Inaugural Committee.

The effort to clean up and clear out Tent City won’t be easy, and helping its residents find shelter rather than ending up on the streets will take time. But it is reassuring that the city is taking those challenges seriously and moving deliberately.

It also marks a strong start for Mayor Tecklenburg as one of his first major acts since taking office last month. A former president of the Crisis Ministries shelter, Mr. Tecklenburg brings considerable experience to the table regarding issues affecting the homeless.

It shows.

When a handful of tents under an overpass grew into a sprawling community of dozens, it became clear that something had to be done both to help the people living in those tents and to prevent health and safety hazards.

The situation became particularly urgent after a small fire broke out last weekend and two Tent City residents were stabbed early Tuesday morning. Even those who generously offer food, clothing, prayer and other support at Tent City can agree that it’s not a viable long-term way for Charleston to support its homeless.

The plan put forth Thursday provides precisely that support, and in a smart, humane way that addresses both immediate and future needs.

Going forward, it hopefully will be particularly inspiring to follow the work of the homelessness experts, community leaders and concerned individuals as they help ensure that nobody need live in a tent beside the road again in Charleston.

And that should be the ultimate goal.

The people of our community are known for big hearts and open arms. Charleston ought to be up to the challenge of placing a solid roof over every head.