Leaders from Charleston Area Justice Ministry gathered Tuesday in front of county offices in North Charleston | Credit: Skyler Baldwin

Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) leaders during a press conference Tuesday morning called on Charleston County Council to put $20 million of an $80 million federal-dollar gift toward an affordable housing trust, and $10 million toward making an immediate dent in the housing crisis.

With a conference at county government headquarters themed around urging leaders to avoid “Grinch-like behavior” around the Christmas holiday, activists even made their pitch in rhyme.

“Perhaps they hate housing that is affordable and will this whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason,” quipped CAJM representative Matthew Cressler.

CAJM representative and CofC professor Matthew Cressler warned that without vigilance, the “Grinches of [Charleston County] Council will take the funds without explanation

Charleston County is set to receive the previously unallocated funds as part of the American Rescue Plan to be used to aid the community through difficulties presented by the pandemic. But even before the pandemic, representatives said, Charleston faced a housing crisis.

“Since the pandemic, this problem has only gotten worse,” said the Rev. Charles Heyward. “The Christmas season is upon us, and many in our communtiy are facing evictions, homelessness and crushing debt all because of housing costs.”

That’s one reason why CAJM has remained adamant about money being allocated toward a trust fund, which it considers a long-term solution. A trust fund would leverage future funds and bring more money to the table, allowing more housing to be built with fewer taxpayer dollars, Cressler explained.

$40 million of the funds have already been allocated, leaving another $40 up for grabs.

CAJM leaders are also convening Tuesday night for Charleston County Council’s scheduled meeting. where supporters will urge financial commitments from members.