More information is known now a day after Mecklenburg County Public Health issued an order stating that everyone living at Tent City along 12th Street would need to clear out by 5 p.m. on Friday. We’ve learned more about the county’s plan to offer shelter to those who want it, though there is still confusion around some of the details, including who will enforce the order if people refuse to leave.
At around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Mecklenburg County officials and leaders with Roof Above handed out flyers to people who have made their homes in the encampment. The flyers laid out guidelines to hotel housing that Roof Above has set up for the residents living at Tent City. The guidelines mandate that anyone who accepted shelter agree to certain regulations similar to those that apply to most of the shelters the organization runs, including that they only bring two bags of belongings and participate in a daily check-in.
According to the flyers, which can be viewed in full here, the hotel shelter will be open only to the approximately 150 Tent City residents, and will remain available for 90 days. County officials have not yet made themselves available to media, though a virtual press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday.
As advocates and supporters discussed the 72-hour deadline given to Tent City residents, rumors circulated on social media that evictions had already begun, with people posting that tents had been cleared away prematurely and homeless neighbors had been threatened with arrest. Queen City Nerve has not confirmed any stories of tents being cleared prematurely, and well over 100 tents still stood as of our visit at sunset on Wednesday night.
Local law enforcement officials have told Queen City Nerve they have no plans to enforce the abatement order, which was issued due to a rat infestation at the site. At a CMPD press conference on Wednesday morning, CMPD Central Division Captain Brad Koch said the department was made aware of the order shortly before it was issued.
“It is my understanding that it is going to be county-driven, county-led, specifically from the county health department office, as well as the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office,” Koch said. “The only time that we would be involved with something [at Tent City] is responding to an emergency call for service. If someone were to be out there and they were to call 911, of course, my officers would respond. However, in terms of the removing of individuals or asking them to leave, I would direct all of those questions to the county public health department or sheriff’s office.”
When Queen City Nerve reached out to Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden on Wednesday evening, he said he had not been aware of the order until people began calling him to ask whether his department would enforce it.
“There has been no conversation [with the county]. We have not been officially contacted by anyone about enforcing anything or providing any security or nothing,” McFadden told Queen City Nerve. “We have no parts of this. Nobody has talked to us. I have not attended any meetings about this or anything else.”
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is legally responsible for enforcing eviction orders, though Tuesday’s abatement order is not a summary ejection, also known as an eviction. McFadden said the only similar issue he can think of during his time in office was related to an abatement against the United House of Prayer for violating COVID-19 regulations by holding crowded church services.
McFadden said he sent deputies to check on the church after the abatement was ordered in that case, but no action was needed. In the case of Tent City, however, McFadden said he has not had any discussions with county leaders about enforcement or details of any sort.
“When people first started calling me about it, I had no idea what they were talking about,” McFadden said. “I had no idea. So then, when some other community leaders called me, I said, ‘We’re not involved and we’re not getting involved at this point.’ Nobody’s talked to me and nobody’s contacted me at this point, and I’ve probably heard less than what you all have heard at this point.”
Tuesday’s abatement order from Mecklenburg County was issued against property owners at six lots that make up the most crowded parts of Tent City. Those property owners have knowingly allowed Tent City residents to stay thus far, despite a lawsuit from nearby property owners against them, the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and others the plaintiffs say are responsible for allowing Tent City to remain.
The six property owners are currently responsible for clearing the land and eradicating the rodents. Those property owners could conceivably call CMPD to enforce trespassing violations. One CMPD official told Queen City Nerve on Wednesday night they had spoken with multiple property owners who claimed they are not inclined to get anyone arrested.
Organizations such as Feed the Movement CLT, which has spent the day working on the ground with residents moving from the properties, has suggested that people can help by donating tote boxes and storage bins to help residents carry their belongings. The county has asked that anyone interested in helping residents support or donate to their partner organizations, including Block Love CLT, Salvation Army and Loaves & Fishes.
Queen City Nerve will continue to cover this story as it develops.
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