Couple may be fined after homeless set up encampment on property

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — Avonda Thomas and her husband, Tito, own commercial property along Bird Road in Albemarle. For months, they claim homeless people have littered their nearly three acres with trash, hazardous waste and even needles.

“That’s not even safe for anyone homeless who’s living back there,” Avonda said.

It all started while Tito was in the hospital in February, recovering from a severe COVID-19 diagnoses. When he got out of the hospital several months later, they said the homeless had moved in and set up their own encampment.

Albemarle encampment

The couple gave the Albemarle Police Department permission to clear the trespassers out months ago, and even posted signs warning people to keep out, but now they said it’s even worse.

“Every time we’d clean up and more would come out,” Avonda said.

The police department is investigating, but also said the couple could be fined for the trash. City officials told Channel 9 they are looking into the matter.

Shanta Watkins, who runs Stanley County’s emergency overnight shelter said it will take more to solve the problem.

“We can’t fine our way out of this and the police can’t arrest their way out of this,” she said.

Watkins said they have beds available for people who want them but they can’t force people to get help. The Thomas’s just want some assistance from local officials to clean up the area.

“I don’t think it’s fair that I’m fined or penalized for something that I didn’t do,” Avonda said.

City officials said the encampment is part of a larger problem, but said they are unclear about how many people are experiencing homelessness in the area.

The Thomas’s haven’t received a fine yet, however several agencies, including the police department and the city are debating who would enforce them. Once they get that cleared up, the Thomas’s could receive a citation.

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