GASTONIA, N.C. — A group rallied Tuesday outside of the Gaston County courthouse in support of an encampment for people who are unhoused.
The rally comes as the city asks a judge to clear the site because of trash concerns. The camp is on N. Oakland Street, about a block away from the Gastonia Police Department.
Once the group was done rallying there, they headed into the council chambers to try to get city council members to reverse the steps the city is taking in court.
The city attorney said the request to get rid of the tents comes from complaints from neighbors and concerns about their well-being.
Pastor Moses Colbert is the operator of Faith, Hope, and Love Ministries, and he says about 100 people live in tents beyond the nearby trees.
Benny Norwood took Channel 9′s Ken Lemon into the woods around Faith Hope and Love, to a tent with rainwater collecting overhead.
“This is home. This is my home. This is comfort,” said Norwood.
Norwood said an expensive medical procedure cost him his job and his house a year ago.
Now he is making do with about 100 other people living in the county’s largest homeless encampment.
He worries that the letter from a Gastonia city attorney will take away this home.
The letter refers to problems with trash. It said the city will ask a judge for a mandatory injunction banning camping.
“It’s just terrible, you are trying [to] kick us off this land. We have nowhere to go,” Norwood said.
Besides being home for Benny, it has been a hotbed for the police. In the last three years, there have been 279 calls for service there. Most of them were this year: 163 from January to early June, including 21 property crimes and 14 overdoses.
Norwood said he works every day and stays out of trouble. He said that’s true for most people here.
“We are not bad people like you think we are. We are good, loving people,” said Norwood.
The operator of the Faith, Hope and Love Ministries said he will ask the city not to give up on the people here and his plan to turn these trailers into classrooms to educate people with few other options.
“They see them as obstacles. I see them as opportunities. They see them as liabilities. I see them as assets,” said Pastor Moses Colbert.
A group called You Are the Power is speaking out with them.
The leader plans to address the city council.
“Their duty is to protect and defend people not to punish people who are helping others,” said Spike Cohen, Founder of You Are the Power.
Channel 9 is following the developments surrounding the encampment, and we’ll report any updates on the city’s plan to clear it.
(WATCH: Body discovered near railroad tracks in west Gastonia, police say)
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