Gastonia Mayor: Downtown Gastonia's growth is not hindered by homelessness

Gastonia Mayor: Downtown Gastonia's growth is not hindered by homelessness

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Whether it's the rising cost of housing or financial problems, homelessness is an issue that hits a lot of surrounding communities. In Gastonia, some people believe that the homelessness issue is hurting downtown businesses.

Some business owners however say they're doing just fine, even the city's mayor says people without homes aren't to blame.

"This is a blank canvas. So I can come down here and create myself and create this business," says Merryman Cassels who runs High Design, a stationery boutique.

It's easy to see that the area is trying to progress, as vacant units along Main Street are being renovated to catch the eyes and fit the needs of potential business owners.

Even with these updates to a once dying downtown, there's one issue that continues to be talked about- homelessness.

"I think it's a problem that happens in many cities," Cassels said.

The Salvation Army sits within walking distance from the businesses downtown, but Walker Reid who is the Mayor of Gastonia says even though he wishes the city's growth would speed up,  its not fair to target people with no homes. He says he believe there are other factors to consider when talking about economic development and success for a company.

"I mean you can't expect to go into a business and in six months be a fruitful business. I think a lot of times it has to do with patience and a lot of times when your patience runs out you look for other people to blame," the mayor says.

Cassels who opened her doors for business four years ago says she can't believe some business owners have pointed fingers at the homeless for their downfall.

"It feels like an excuse to me," Cassels added.

She says if anything, she tries to help those who are less fortunate by pointing them in the direction of nearby organizations that work to get folks back on their feet.

"We are a community, and this community involves human beings who are going through a very challenging time in their lives.

The mayor did tell WBTV's Bria Bell that they are not dismissing the issue of homelessness. According to him, there has been talk about possibly relocating the shelter away from downtown and creating other resources for those in need.

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