People Bused From North End Encampment As Local Leaders Discuss Ways To Move Forward
CHARLOTTE, NC – People were packing up bags and moving out of the north end encampment on Thursday morning.
“I’m just in hopes that the good lord is going to have his way,” said one woman standing in line waiting to load a bus to a hotel.
Once at the hotel, people will be offered services and security, and have access to laundry and meals.
“Let me be clear that this is not a Mecklenburg County problem. This is a community problem,” said Dena Diorio, the Mecklenburg County manager.
The county does not own any of the land occupied by the tent city. The parcels belong to the city, state, and private owners.
The county health department deemed the site to be unlivable after the discovery of a rat infestation late last week.
“There is an immediate need to protect the health of those living at the encampment site and potentially the health of the broader community,” said Diorio.
The order to vacate set off a chain reaction of confusion and uncertainty.
“There is a lot of unanswered questions and until I have those answers, I’m not satisfied with making a decision,” said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden.
McFadden, along with the city of Charlotte, CMPD police Chief Johnny Jennings, the Charlotte Fire department, and several other non-profits sent statements saying they were unaware of the plans ahead of time.
“Enforce it at 5 o’clock tomorrow, no, that’s not what I’m going to do yet,” said McFadden.
“At a time when we have people living with rats, it is unfortunate that the city and the sheriff would refuse to help,” said Diorio.
What on the outside looks like a hasty plan, county commissioner Pat Cotham says the most important need of caring for the people is being met.
“I was happy that 180 people have accepted the offer to go to a hotel. So that was good,” said Cotham.
“I think anytime you have a public health crisis, there has to be swift action,” said Commissioner Mark Jerrell.
He says the focus should be on getting people into a healthy living environment and review how it all unfolded at a later date.
“Right now I don’t think it’s the right time for us to try and figure out, point fingers, try and figure out what could have been done, what should have been done,” said Jerrell.
The county and city are named in a lawsuit that is still pending. One property owner, in particular, says they have lost out on sales due to the homeless encampments..
That property’s attorney, Ed Hinson says he and his “clients view the county’s actions to be an encouraging development for them and the homeless people living in the encampment. They are carefully studying how the situation develops and might impact the lawsuit.”