The Mall in Columbia made the news today for taking a hard line against some homeless people who congregate there. According to this story by Henri E. Cauvin in The Washington Post, over the past few weeks “at least two homeless people have been banned from entering the mall, and about 20 more have been told that they should stay out during the early morning, according to some homeless people and their advocates.”
Since moving our podcast to the Mall in October, we’ve had two experiences with people who obviously had some mental health issues. On the first occasion, just after Christmas, a woman approached Paul and I at a table in front of Nordstrom discussing our show. The conversation started innocently enough with her asking what we do for a living but soon denigrated when she began insisting that we call the governor on her behalf. (She told us they took her phone away). She did not take it well when we told her that we were not going to call the governor and that we were trying to have a meeting.
A week ago, just as we starting to begin taping our latest show, an older gentleman approached our table and immediately began questioning us about what we were going to do about “Chinese hackers.” Once again we attempted to gently get him to move on which he eventually did after determining that we weren’t going to do anything about them. He continued to stalk around us until we wrapped up the show.
I’ll readily concede that I don’t know if either of these individuals was homeless. Our brief dialogue never entered into that realm. It was obvious to us though that these were not your typical shoppers. Neither of them carried any shopping bags. Both were alone. I think it would be safe to assume that we were not the only people they approached. I think its also safe to assume that their odd and somewhat belligerent behavior would be unsettling to some customers.
I can understand the concerns of The Mall in this case. The reporter notes that The Mall actually contacted Grassroots about the problem.
‘About a month ago, the mall's management contacted Grassroots Crisis Intervention, said Douglas Carl, the nonprofit group's manager of emergency and outreach homeless services. Grassroots was told that residents of the emergency shelter should not enter the shopping center before 10 a.m., Carl said.
The mall management, he said, expressed concerns about incidents involving people believed to be residents of the emergency shelter.’
The bottom line is that The Mall is private property. It is a commercial enterprise that exists for the safety and comfort of shoppers. If that safety and comfort are compromised by a few individuals they would seem to be well within their rights to rectify the situation.
Delegate Liz Bobo was quoted in the article saying that she is “going to be pursuing this for a while…”
Maybe she can call the governor and do something about those Chinese hackers while she’s at it.