• 9 Investigates: Growing homeless problem in Charlotte

    By: Scott Wickersham


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The shelters in and around North Tryon offer such a good setup for the city's 2,400 homeless that one man claims out-of-state homeless are coming in from other cities, sometimes by bus.

    Lt. Bret Balamucki , whose officers have been cracking down on homeless crime, said he sees it all the time.

    "People that aren't from Charlotte. Every single day. Yesterday, my guys we were with a guy from Texas, a guy from Mississippi. Both of them had just gotten here," Balamucki said. "We're receiving people from all over the country who say Charlotte has good services, go there."

    Eyewitness News anchor Scott Wickersham traveled to Colombia, S.C., which recently tried a new way to tackle its homeless problem.

    "I've had conversations with business that just want out," said Councilman Cameron Runyan.

    Runyan showed empty boarded up buildings and blamed a new downtown shelter for attracting vagrants and driving out customers.

    Runyan proposed a plan to move the shelter to a building by the city's water treatment plant and to arrest those who didn't go. It was controversial among those on the streets.

    "I don't feel it's right to be subjected to rules that take away my constitutional rights," said one person.

    The city backed off after public backlash.

    In Charlotte, Sam Esmail owns an entire city block on North Tryon Street, but said developers walk away when they see all the people on the street.

    "I would like to see the city get more aggressive about it," Esmail said.

    Roger Grosswald said it's hard to keep tenants at his shopping center.

    "Continuing aggressive panhandling and congregation," Grosswald said.

    City Councilman Michael Barnes understands business owners' concerns.

    "North Tryon should be one of the most productive corridors in Charlotte," Barnes said.

    He's dismayed by reports of homeless coming to Charlotte.

    "It's frustrating because we want people to come to Charlotte but not simply be homeless," Barnes said.

    Barnes said he and fellow council members have discussed the issue before, but the solution isn't clear.

    He isn't sure where the money would come from to move shelters away from Uptown and said Columbia's plan to arrest people went too far.

    "We also have to realize we are dealing with people who deserve to be treated respectfully, and also should be assisted in helping themselves," Barnes said.

    Barnes said the issue is something he plans to address in his term, but in the meantime, every time a bus pulls into Charlotte, the problem could be growing.

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