‘People are on a path to housing’: Mecklenburg County, partner organizations transition former Tent City residents to other hotels as they complete housing placement

The county says 37 people have transitioned to permanent housing.
From Tent City to a home of their own. That's been the county's mission since over 200 people moved into hotels back in February.
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been seven months since more than 200 people were forced to leave Tent City. Now, many of them have their own homes.

In mid-February, residents were given 72 hours to vacate the property due to health risks from a rodent infestation.

The county paid for hotel services which were originally slated for 90 days but were extended to September 30.

“They had additional barriers, with a criminal background, active substance use, not everybody, but a good portion of the individuals do which makes housing even more difficult, which is why we have extended the hotel through September 30,” said Karen Pelletier, Mecklenburg County’s Director of Housing, Innovation, Strategy, and Alignment.

The county and partner organizations want to make it clear just because the program as they know it is changing, it doesn’t mean people are being kicked out.

“Even when other end dates approached people were like ‘oh y’all are just gonna throw them back out in the streets’ that never been the case,” said Deborah Woolard, the founder of Block Love CLT.

Residents of Charlotte’s “Tent City” required to leave property within 72 hours due to rodent infestation

Mecklenburg County Public Health issued an Abatement of Imminent Hazard Order to the owners of the property housing the North End Encampment and affecting individuals who reside there (on 12th Street between Tryon and College).

County officials say the order was issued to help address immediate health risks to encampment residents due to rodent infestation on the property.

During this time in hotels the county, partnering organizations, and case managers worked with individuals to help them secure permanent housing. The county says as of Sept. 17, 37 people have transitioned to permanent housing.

One of those people is Laconia Stewart. She spent six months living in Tent City and several other months living in the woods in Gastonia.

“If it wasn’t for God, I probably wouldn’t have had the strength to do the footwork, but I was determined that I was going to have my own,” Stewart said.

Stewart got the keys to her apartment in Mid-May during the first 90-day period.

“When I stood in there, I just grabbed Ms. Deb and told her I made it!”

County officials say 215 people accepted the county’s offer to stay in hotels during this time period. As of September 17, the county is reporting the following:

• Homelessness (unsheltered) 51 individuals

• Permanent Housing: 37 individuals

• Emergency Shelter: 20 individuals

• Detention Center: 12 individuals

• Unknown: 8 individuals

• Death: 4 individuals

• Temporary Housing: 1 individual

Block Love CLT, Catholic Charities and Roof Above are teamed up with the county to transition the remaining 60 residents to other hotels thanks to FEMA funding, which means they’ll have a place to live while they finish their paperwork.

“The meals will still be there, the laundry service will still be there, the resources will still be available. Every single day the case managers will still be on-site,” Woolard said.

“We’ve known September 30 is coming and so over the last week people have been moving. Dozens of people again have moved over the course of this project to housing. People have moved out to hotels. Today Roof Above moved sixteen people from the north end encampment motel to an alternate hotel site. We’ll continue to support those folks as they move into one of our housing programs,” said Liz Clasen-Kelly, the CEO of Roof Above.

Roof Above is transitioning 16 of those 60 people to another hotel from now until the end of next February.

“Several folks will move out before February so some folks have housing placements that will likely come open in the next month, the next two months, so it will be a staggered exit as people’s housing becomes available they’ll move out,” Clasen-Kelly said.

Stewart says the process wasn’t easy but encourages others to take the leap of faith.

“You have to have patience you have to hold on and keep your faith in God.”

The county says 10 individuals are being supported through the Criminal Justice Services program.

Six people were also offered support with the option of accepting, and regardless will still be directed to other housing solutions.

“People will continue to move to housing and then the six individuals will be exited with through either detox or to emergency shelter and that is because they have decided to at the housing option available to them is not what they want,” Pelletier said. “They have been offered either treatment through Anuvia’s detox program or information on how to access emergency shelter.”

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