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The Connection: Combating Homelessness

September 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
From Bogota, Columbia to Columbia, S.C., Hari Sreenivasan reports on the drastically different ways communities are responding to homelessness within their borders.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: One issue unlikely to take up much time in Congress this fall is homelessness.

What are cities doing about it? That’s the subject of our regular feature- The Connection.

We came across a story from Bogota Columbia about that city’s ambitious new plan — not only to feed the homeless — but to offer them a shower, shave and vaccinations too.

WORKER: We do this with the goal of restoring their dignity.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That same day, we read another story about the homeless in Columbia — Columbia south Carolina.   That city is now offering its homeless a choice — voluntarily go to a shelter not downtown or face arrest.

Local merchants had complained that homeless people near their shops were hurting business.

RESIDENT: We pay taxes, property taxes, business taxes, business license fees, and we deserve protection of our city.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That city is not alone. A New York community group has sued the Bloomberg administration for housing the homeless in their neighborhood.

And in Indianapolis, police arrested four homeless who refused to leave the camp they had set up under a bridge.

HOMELESS MAN: We had a community together.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You have to wonder if there’d be more sympathy for the homeless if we actually heard from them.

TED:  Thank you so much.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Think about what happened after a reporter engaged a homeless man two years ago in Columbus Ohio. The reporter had been intrigued by the man’s sign, claiming he was a former radio announcer.

REPORTER: I’m going to make you work for your dollar, say something with that great radio voice.

TED: When you’re listening to nothing but the best of oldies, you’re listening to magic, 98.9.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The tape the reporter shot quickly went viral. And the homeless man was soon flown to New York where he appeared on The Today Show…

MATT LAUER:  It’s great to have you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: He was then offered a job doing voiceover work for Kraft.

TED: You know you love it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That got us thinking about the all the others still out on the streets. What are their stories? How do they get home?