Tents are popping up in a field off Providence and Blue Ridge roads owned by Maher Commercial Real Estate, but they won’t be there for long.


Jack Maher, owner of the seven-acre property, said Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp contacted him Thursday asking if he’d be willing to allow a temporary tent city for the homeless on the seven-acre property.


Maher said yes, and people started moving in Friday morning.


"It felt like the right thing to do at the time," he said.


But then neighbors started contacting him with concerns, and the real estate company decided it wasn’t the best place for a long-term camp.


Maher told Trapp and his brother John, who are leading an effort to shelter the homeless population in Columbia, that they would need to relocate by Monday morning. Maher said the company is helping the brothers find a new location.


There were about a dozen tents scattered around the property on Sunday morning. A service tent near Providence Road provides food and basic sanitation supplies.


At the camp on Sunday morning, Andrew Brosdahl said he didn’t know where he would go next.


"It would be nice if they would take these old buildings, instead of tearing them down, to make a shelter out of them," Brosdahl said.


Trapp has been working to shelter the homeless population, which is especially vulnerable to COVID-19, since the onset of the pandemic in March. He opened the Como Crisis Center with his brother John on March 26 after all Columbia residents were ordered to shelter in place.


Trapp petitioned the city for a $10,000 contract to help pay for the shelter’s original home, the Welcome Inn on North Providence Road, but the funding still hasn’t been approved, according to his Facebook posts.


"We fell back from the pop up shelter in the hotel to a monitored camp site that was a bit too visible. We got the tents up before the rain, that was a blessing," Trapp wrote in a Facebook post Friday. "Fred Parry helped us hook up with portapotties through a private donor when ours were delayed."


Trapp, who operates AAAAChange, a consulting firm, with his brother John Trapp, has expressed public concern with his fellow council members’ handling of the center’s funding and the homeless population amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


On Saturday, Trapp posted a video featuring a homeless man who told Trapp he did not know he needed to be washing his hands. Trapp tagged Third Ward councilman Karl Skala in the post, mentioning the man was a resident of his ward.


In the video, Trapp asks the man whether he’d like a place to stay, to wash his hands and "take a shit."


The man asks Trapp whether he has a place in mind.


"I do, but I can’t even say where it is because I don’t trust them to not turn off the power or send the cops or the health department to shut it down so I have to do it without telling them," Trapp said.


Skala commented, mentioning that after a "recent phone conversation that abruptly ended" when Trapp "hung up the phone", Skala sent Trapp a message explaining that he hoped to discuss the issue at Monday night’s council meeting and had no intention not to help or of "fighting it out in public."


Skala commented that since he sent that message, Trapp had unfriended him on Facebook.


A number of tents, along with portable toilets, are pitched throughout the large field.


"It’s really hard to tell people (about the shelter) because they don’t understand the urgency; they don’t understand that everybody who was homeless was already in crisis," Mike Trapp told the Tribune in a previous story about the shelter. "They don’t understand that they’re medically fragile individuals who are going to die."


"They don’t understand that if COVID gets into the homeless population, that they’re going to overwhelm the hospitals, and even if nobody else gets it, then people are going to die because they can’t get into the plagued hospital while they’re having a heart attack while a bunch of homeless people are there because no one taught them to wash their hands," he added.


Reached at the camp Sunday morning, Trapp said he would not make any public comments about the issue until he found a place for the homeless to go.


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