Cleanup To Begin At Tent City After More Than 200 Provided Housing
Updated Saturday, Feb. 20 at 8:15 a.m.
Cleanup is expected to begin Saturday at the site of a homeless encampment north of uptown Charlotte that was cleared of more than 200 people after a health order was issued because of a rodent infestation.
Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said in a Friday news conference that 214 people who were living in "Tent City" were provided housing.
The county did not have a firm number on who might be resisting leaving “Tent City” — about 15-20 remained three hours before the 5 p.m. deadline to vacate the land — and Diorio said it is up to individual property owners of six parcels of land affected to remove anyone who remains.
An abatement of imminent hazard issued by Public Health Director Gibbie Harris requires property owners to begin the process of removing rats on the site within 24 hours.
“In the event that there are still people, and we don’t know if that’s going to be the case, it will be up to be up to the property owners to determine the best way to have those folks removed,” Diorio said.
So far, 184 people have been moved to a new hotel leased by the county specifically to help with the process of clearing Tent City. An additional 30 people were referred to an existing hotel the county has been using during the coronavirus pandemic. The housing has been made available for 90 days.
Devonny Ooton was one of those who was given a hotel room, which he said he was looking forward to. However, he said he wished the county had given him and other residents more time to prepare for the move.
"After awhile, people out here kind of establish theyself in a sense like a home," he said. "Like in my tent, it’s like — I have like couches and a coffee table and — if you go in there and you sit down, it’d be like you were sitting in a living room. So yeah, it’s a lot. You end up accumulating a lot of stuff."
Residents were permitted to bring just two bags of belongings with them to the county-provided housing.
Angelique Diaz-Landry said Friday afternoon that she hoped to remain at the site for as long as she could. She was skeptical that a hotel stay would do much for her or other’s situations.
"A lot of people are going to be, like, quote-'boomerang,'" she said. "They’re going to come right back. Because it’s short term, it’s not permanent. And they’re not going to fit the criteria, meet the criteria of the do's and don’ts, and they’re going to end up right back out here."
The need for housing exceeded original estimates of 140 people in the Tent City camp, and Diorio said some people who weren’t living in that encampment could not be accommodated as part of housing offer.
“This effort was not designed to solve homelessness in Mecklenburg County,” she said. “It was designed to relocate people from a specific situation that was not safe for them or for this community. What we didn’t want to do was just relocate anybody who just walked up to us and said they wanted a hotel room. So, we did have to triage people who actually were impacted by the encampment and others who actually came up and wanted a place to stay. … Nobody who qualified under that criteria was turned away.”
Since the order was issued, 12 families seeking housing who did not live in Tent City were provided rooms at Salvation Army shelters.
Harris said the rodent eradication process will involve “poison across the board,” one of the reasons she issued the order to clear the site.
Although the county and city have squabbled over the responsibility of clearing the sites, finding housing and transportation to that housing, Diorio said she “feels really good” about the process since the order was issued Tuesday evening.
“At the end of the day, we’ve relocated over 210 people into safe housing where they have access to food, three meals a day and snacks, wraparound services and job supports and mental health supports,” she said. “Our team feels really good at the end of the day about what we’ve been able to accomplish in 72 hours. It’s pretty remarkable.”