The Columbia Housing Authority voted on Tuesday night to build a fence around the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.
The fence was first brought up as a possibility in May and is meant to address complaints by residents and businesses near the soup kitchen at 616 Park Ave. CHA commissioners said they have been told that some of the people who visit the soup kitchen litter, loiter and harass customers.
Speaking to the CHA, Blair Murphy of Johnston Paint and Decorating said bushes on the Johnston property — separated from the soup kitchen by an alley — are often littered with bottles, and some of the kitchen visitors use Johnston’s dumpster to temporarily stow alcohol. It is not allowed in the soup kitchen.
“We’re not against Loaves and Fishes being where it is,” Murphy said. “But we do want to make sure the area is kept clean and safe for our customers.”
Mike Holden, a representative of Guaranty Land Title Insurance, another neighboring business, said Guaranty would contribute $2,500 toward construction of a fence, contingent on the fence being a cedar privacy fence. Murphy said Johnston would contribute materials to build a cedar fence.
A fence would stop visitors from cutting across parking lots to get to the soup kitchen, forcing them to enter only through the Park Avenue entrance. Doris Chiles, executive director for the CHA, said a back gate that leads into the alley would be for exits only.
The five-member authority voted unanimously in favor of the fence, provided that it could be built in accordance with fire and other rules. The CHA gave no timeline for construction of the fence but said it will consult the Columbia Fire Department soon.
The CHA also said it will look into replacing a dumpster in the alley behind Loaves and Fishes with curb service for garbage. Some residents who share the dumpster with Loaves and Fishes have told the CHA that they are concerned about loitering there by soup kitchen visitors.
In other business, the CHA discussed buying property and housing at 407 N. Providence Road, near its office at 201 Switzler St.
CHA commissioners are Marvin Kinney, Genie Rogers, Mary Anne McCollum, Fred J. Parry and Jeffrey Johnson.