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Charlotte Plans Grant To Move Former Tent City Residents Out Of Hotels

Tents and refuse remain at the site of Tent City shortly before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline to clear the land.
Nick de la Canal
The encampment that became known as Tent City near uptown is seen just before the land was cleared in late February.

Updated 7:52 a.m. April 7

Seventy-five people who used to live in what became known as Tent City near uptown Charlotte will get permanent housing and support thanks to a federal CARES Act grant City Council announced Monday night. The council also plans to spend money to help the Salvation Army buy an undisclosed hotel to expand beds for homeless people.

When Mecklenburg County decided to shut down the homeless encampment near uptown in February, it promised three months of free hotel rooms for residents. More than 200 people took that offer for temporary lodging, and at least 140 people actually lived in the encampment when it was closed down. The $2.1 million grant approved by City Council pays for one year of housing for some of those residents.

"What we're going to do, working in partnership with several other organizations, is provide rental subsidies and supportive services to 75 individuals or families who are currently residing at the hotels who were formerly at the encampment," said Kathryn Firmin-Sellers of United Way of Central Carolinas, which is overseeing the work.

Those support services will include training and job placement, child care, mental health and substance abuse counseling and help obtaining federal benefits through Social Security, the Veterans Administration, Medicaid and Medicare.

"What that's designed to do is make sure that that person or that family is connected to all of the resources within the community that they might need in order to help them maintain their housing at the end of 12 months," Firmin-Sellers said.

It's not clear if there are plans to help the remaining former Tent City residents once their three months in hotels expire next month. More than 200 people got hotel rooms after the tent city was shut down.

A county spokesman said Wednesday about 178 people remain in hotels. Three more have moved to permanent housing. County staff are starting to help others look for housing as well.

Altogether, the council announced $5.6 million in CARES Act grants for homeless services Monday night.

Another $300,000 will go to Socialserve, which runs the HousingCLT program. The agency will add "housing navigators" to help connect 300 people with permanent housing, including the 75 former tent city residents.

The United Way and Socialserve will also be working with Catholic Charities on the program.

Salvation Army Buying Hotel

The largest grant — $2.5 million — will help the Salvation Army buy a hotel to house up to 400 homeless people. The Salvation Army also is getting $700,000 to lease hotel rooms between July and December before it buys the hotel.

The Salvation Army has not closed yet on the hotel purchase and has not said where it will be located. Shelter director Deronda Metz declined to comment.

At Monday night's meeting, council member Renee' Johnson said, "It’s good to know that we are intentionally and deliberately working to work with the homeless population. It’s proven that it’s a huge need.”

The city council will vote on the grants next Monday.

WFAE's Catherine Welch contributed to this report.

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Corrected: April 7, 2021 at 8:02 AM EDT
A previous version of this story said the city approved the grants. While officials announced the plan, City Council doesn't vote on it until April 12. In addition, only Socialserve will receive funds to help people find housing. That was incorrect in the initial version of this story.
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.