By Peyton Lewis, News 19

On Monday even, a standing-room-only crowd gathered in Eau Claire High School’s auditorium for the eighth annual MORE Justice Nehemiah Action Assembly.

MORE Justice is a local group of congregations from Richland and Lexington Counties that aim to address public issues through public demonstrations and a faith-based approach.

The seminar-style event on Monday welcomed people to hear about community progress in chipping away at certain issues facing North Columbia and the surrounding Richland County community.

Speakers focused on food insecurity, housing, and gun violence issues plaguing the 29203 and 29204 area codes.

“Any tension we feel tonight is nothing compared to the tension that families feel when they are evicted, or when parents lose a child to gun violence,” said Morgan Lee, with Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

The conference started with discussions about mental health and gun violence. MORE Justice is asking that all Columbia Police Department Officers and all deputies at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department receive Crisis Intervention Training.

MORE Justice announced they do plan to host a gun violence summit in June to bring the Director of the Columbia Office of Violent Crime Prevention, Trevon Fordham.

When it came to food insecurity, the group presented the fact that the 29203 area code now only has four grocery stores serving its 60,000 residents. The group hopes that Columbia’s new Mobile Food Market will help address some of these concerns.

MORE Justice brought Columbia City Council members Tina Herbert, Tyler Bailey, and Will Brennan up on stage to hold them accountable for funding the Mobile Food Market.

Councilman Will Brennan says he hopes to continue working with his fellow council members to bring food where needed.

“How many lives are we changing? What is the data? What are the metrics? once you can prove that, it’s a no-brainer for local governments, we have to find ways to be innovative on funding that growth,” Brennan explained.

The final topic covered in the assembly was housing. The MORE Justice group wants Richland County Council to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund as a long-term solution to the housing issues.

Councilman Paul Livingston spoke on behalf of his fellow Richland County Council members saying he will champion an effort as the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee.

The MORE Justice group will host a celebration for the community on May 20.

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