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Weekly News Roundup: Homeless Look for Shelter During Freezing Nights

Freezing Nights Call Homeless Policies Back into Question

For the first time this fall, local officials enacted policies this week to expand access to shelters for the homeless during especially cold nights on Tuesday and Wednesday, when temperatures dropped below 30 degrees.  Mecklenburg County officials announced on Tuesday that they would be working with the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, the Urban Ministry Center, the Salvation Army Center of Hope and the American Red Cross to support the needs of the community by providing additional resources to the Men’s Shelter, Urban Ministry Center and Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Center of Hope, which is open 24 hours a day, announced that it would implement a no-turn-away policy, while the standard lottery procedure at the Men’s Shelter that usually takes place between 8 and 9 a.m. was relaxed so that people could request mats throughout the day on Tuesday.  The city also announced that CATS buses would transport people to either of the two Men’s Shelter locations or the Center of Hope upon request and free of charge.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham called on the county to do more on Tuesday, saying that the “Level One” response that the county announced was “somewhat problematic in 2018,” in part because of the gender and age restrictions at some shelters that force families to split. Cotham called on the county to open less restrictive warming shelters. Past policy has stated that warming shelters open when the temperatures drop below 11 degrees for 24 hours.

Regardless, Cotham hit the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with blankets, hats, gloves, hand-warmers, food and drink to hand out to her neighbors without homes in the Uptown area.

City Officials Continue Efforts to Make Charlotte More Accessible

City officials hosted a second set of open house forums on Wednesday at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus to collect feedback for its ongoing Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Act, which aims to make city-run programs and city-owned facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 6% of the Mecklenburg County population lives with disabilities, which equates to more than 65,600 people.

Residents and city employees gave feedback to officials at an open house on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

City staff joined members of Austin-based company Altura Solutions, which is helping carry out the transition plan, to show residents who attended on Wednesday what planners have done so far and receive input on what their priorities should be moving forward.

The city is inspecting more than 200 city-owned facilities, including Discovery Place Science in Uptown, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Spectrum Center and other popular destinations. Planners will also visit 42 fire stations, 10 police departments, eight water treatment facilities, six auditoriums, and 35 light rail stations and transit centers. County-owned facilities will not be included in the plan.

According to Elaine Andersen, vice president at Altura, planners are about halfway through drafting up the city’s ADA Transition Plan. For context as to how thorough the inspectors are, it took two-and-a-half days to complete a recent inspection of the Spectrum Center, which includes a look at parking, seating, restrooms, water fountains and any other architectural barriers.

They don’t stop there, however, as the transition plan will also include making programs and services more accessible; that covers everything run by the city from trash pickup to the website.  “If there’s a form you need to fill out to be a part of a program, then we need to make sure that’s accessible,” Andersen said.

According to Altura registered accessibility specialist Andrea LaCour, much of the feedback during the first two public forums has revolved around parking outside facilities or accessibility issues with the restrooms inside. On Wednesday, multiple Post-it Notes from attendees listed concerns with the restrooms at Belmont Regional Center, a building in Uptown where the city hosts meetings and training sessions.

“I would say bathrooms are one of the main concerns and parking is probably the main concern,” LaCour said. “A lot of the times, [people are] talking about there’s not enough parking or it’s not as conveniently located as people would like, and then in the building, bathrooms are the biggest one.”

Planners hope to wrap up the final draft of their plan by summer 2020, at which time they will present it to Charlotte City Council to decide on how to prioritize the plans and over what time period they can expect to implement the transition.

“There’s no way you can fix every barrier tomorrow, so it’s more like a master plan,” Andersen said.

City officials want residents who haven’t attended the open houses to participate in an online survey to give feedback.

One Dead, Another Injured in Officer-Involved Shooting

Much is still unknown about an incident that happened early on Friday morning and ended in the death of 33-year-old Treon McCoy. It’s still unclear whether two CMPD officers, both of whom have already been placed on administrative leave, shot McCoy and another victim whose name has not yet been released.

According to a release, CMPD officers Kevin Lovell and Shane Mathews were working off-duty but in uniform at the Epicentre when they responded to a call about an altercation just after 2 a.m. According to a CMPD release on Friday afternoon, “Two subjects were injured during the incident. One subject was pronounced deceased, and the second subject was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.”

It’s unclear who fired the shots and why, but CMPD said both Lovell and Mathews were involved. Friday’s release implied that both officers fired their guns at some point, stating, “Both officers have been placed on administrative leave which is standard procedure anytime an officer discharges his or her weapon.” Lovell and Mathews have both been with the department since 2013.

This is the first CMPD officer-involved shooting since District Attorney Spencer Merriweather’s officer ordered that the State Bureau of Investigations handle all investigations of shootings involving CMPD officers, rather than the department itself handling the investigation as it did in the past, which appears to be the explanation for the lack of information coming from the department after the incident occurred. According to the release, “The CMPD, per statute, may release the circumstances surrounding an arrest, information leading up to the incident, information on officers involved and the fact that at the conclusion of the criminal investigation, the CMPD will conduct an internal investigation to determine if all department policies were followed.”

On Sept. 30, John Haladay was shot by a stray bullet fired during a fight at the Epicentre. He later died. On Friday, WCNC reported that Epicentre will soon abandon its entertainment theme by not renewing leases for the multitude of bars that anchor the location and transitioning to retail and office space.

Queen City Nerve will continue to follow this story as it develops.

WBTV Wins Legal Battle Over Investigative Story

WBTV reporters went to court to defend their story against a shady towing company this week, and the story aired, so consider that a win for freedom of the press. A restraining order against the TV station had originally prevented the station from airing an investigative story involving SL Recovery, LLC. WBTV reporter David Hodges went to court on Thursday to argue in favor of the story, and the judge ruled in his favor.

Advertisements for the story were reportedly hurting the company’s business, as it involved the recent towing and selling of a soldier’s car during her deployment to the border. Army National Guard Soldier Jabria Ross reportedly left her car at her mother’s Charlotte condo when she was deployed. Despite clearing this with the complex, her car was towed two months later due to having expired tags. Ross’ mother was told that the only way to retrieve the car was with an in-person payment. When Ross returned home and attempted to buy her car back, she found it had been sold by SL Recovery to pay towing and storage fees.

In their investigation, WBTV found that SL Recovery had released inaccurate information regarding the sales of several towed cars. However, a lawyer representing the company’s owner, Chlonn Williams insisted the company followed all legal proceedings. Williams provided WBTV with proof that SL Recovery conducted a Servicemember Civil Relief Act search for Ross, a process that must be taken to prove a defendant is deployed to prevent default judgement against them in court. There is no evidence of this search in any court files.

Refusing to pull the story, WBTV motioned for the restraining order to be resolved. The court granted their request and the story aired as scheduled.

Suspicious Death Ruled Homicide

Investigators believe a man found dead in a home on Spring Forest Drive the Arbor Glen neighborhood of west Charlotte on Monday morning was murdered, making him the 96th homicide in Charlotte this year. According to CMPD, officers responded to a call to assist Medic and found 79-year-old Curtis Ford dead in the home. The departmented released an update on Tuesday stating that Ford’s death would be investigated as a homicide. “The preliminary investigation indicates the victim’s death is not a result of natural causes and detectives do suspect foul play at this point,” the statement read. Elizabeth McGuire contributed reporting and writing to this roundup. 

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