Leaders discuss how to handle growing number of homeless tents outside uptown

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County Commissioners talked Tuesday about what to do with the growing number of homeless tents outside uptown.

Right now, there are 91 people living there. County leaders said they do have enough beds at emergency shelters and motel rooms the county leased for everyone at the encampment.

Officials are going to let everyone know they can have access to those rooms if they want them.

One property owner said it’s time for the people to go because he wants to sell the land.

[ALSO READ: Landlord files lawsuit to remove homeless camps around property near uptown]

The assistant county commissioner said before the pandemic that the city’s homeless were spread out and not necessarily concentrated where they are now. As the pandemic forced more people out of their homes, more tents popped up along 12th Street near Tryon Street.

According to the assistant county manager, when the pandemic hit, many of the city’s homeless began moving closer to services.

Last week, Channel 9 reported that the man who owns the property is suing the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. He said the land is worth millions but he can’t sell it because the homeless are living there.

The suit claims there is not enough being done to help residents who are being affected.

“Well, they have done almost nothing up till now,” said Ed Hinson, an attorney who represents the family that owns a vacant lot on North Tryon Street that is surrounded by the tent city.

Hinson brought the suit against the city and county asking them to do one of two things: Buy the property or address the homeless issue.

“They have no toilet facilities and no running water, so they have to go to the bathroom outside on my client’s property and other property owners,” Hinson said.

The litigants claim the property, which the county tax office said is worth millions of dollars, is actually worth nothing because no one will buy it under these conditions.

They also believe the city can find the money to address the issue.

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“Out there at the Old Eastland Mall site, they’ve come up with tens of millions of dollars to address athletic facilities, so we think there are resources here,” Hinson said. “It’s just an unwillingness to apply them to the least of these.”

Brad Goforth, director of Samaritan House, has been helping homeless people since 1994.

“Right now, I know the shelters are beyond their capacity,” Goforth said. “Charlotte has had a homeless situation for a long time and it’s not getting any better because of COVID.”

He compared the encampment to a refugee camp in a war-torn nation.

“I understand where the landowners are coming from,” Goforth said. “I understand where people are coming from when they say, ‘We don’t like to see tents on the street.’ The question becomes, where are you going to put everybody?”

A spokesperson for the city sent Channel 9 the following response about the lawsuit:

“The City Attorney’s Office has received a copy of the complaint. While it is not our typical policy to comment on active litigation, it is our hope and desire that we can assist in assembling a community response to the homeless encampment issues that appear to be the subject matter of the lawsuit. We are actively seeking assistance from our community partners and the parties to this litigation to identify potential solutions to this issue.”