Mecklenburg Struggles To Get Former Tent City Residents Into Permanent Housing
Staff members with Mecklenburg County's Community Support Services are struggling to find landlords who will rent to the former residents of the homeless encampment near uptown Charlotte known as "Tent City."
The camp was dismantled in February by order of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, which declared the it a health risk.
The county offered to temporarily house the camp's former residents at two hotels, where they would receive three meals a day, plus laundry services.
Two-hundred fourteen of the camp's former residents took the county up on its offer, and for the past five months, county staff has been working to connect them with caseworkers, mental health resources and permanent housing.
So far, only 16 former Tent City residents have transitioned into permanent housing, said Karen Pelletier with Mecklenburg County's Community Support Services.
There are 40 additional people who have been approved for housing vouchers and are ready to move out of the hotels, Pelletier said, but the county can't find landlords willing to accommodate them.
"We cannot find landlords to rent to some of our individuals, either due to alleged criminal activity, to previous criminal histories, to rent or credit issues," she said.
Pelletier also credited Charlotte's tight housing market with exacerbating the problem.
"We are in a very competitive housing market right now," she said. "Landlords may be able to receive higher rent from someone who can afford it, other than the individuals who are really struggling."
She said the county is offering incentives, including in some cases a $500 signing bonus to interested landlords.
She said some of the former Tent City residents have opted to leave the hotels without finding permanent homes.
Of the 214 people who moved into the hotels, 45 have left and returned to unsheltered living situations; 17 have left for one of the county's homeless shelters, such as Roof Above or the Salvation Army Center of Hope; nine were arrested and removed from the hotels for alleged criminal activity; three people have died, and another four left without providing details of their plans.
Pelletier also says that of the 16 people who have been permanently housed, three have reconnected and moved in with family or friends.
According to Pelletier, at least one resident has found employment and a landlord on her own and is soon planning to move into her an apartment where she will pay the market price.
As of July 15, Pelletier said 121 of the former Tent City residents remained in the two hotels.
The county has declined to say which Charlotte-area hotels it is contracting with, citing privacy concerns for the hotel operators.
Pelletier said the county has contracted with the hotels through the end of September, and caseworkers are helping residents form plans for where they might go when their hotel stays end on Sept. 30.
If they can't find permanent housing before that date, Pelletier said, the former residents will likely move into homeless shelters or return to unsheltered living.