Grassroots effort to clean tons of trash left by homeless in Lincolnton

The small city of Lincolnton is facing some big city problems when it comes to the issue of homelessness.
Homeless encampments have left trash around the city of Lincolnton.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WBTV) - The small city of Lincolnton is facing some big city problems when it comes to the issue of homelessness.

Some residents say camps are popping up around the area at a noticeable rate. These encampments also generate tons of trash. Recently, a grassroots organization came in to clean up a hundred bags full of debris, but the problem will only come back.

The trail to the campsites leads right up to this produce stand, and interactions can become uncomfortable at times. Workers say their hearts go out to these folks and wish there was an easy solution.

Under a bridge thousands pass over every day, down a well-worn trail is a community very few of us even know to exist. Some say dozens of people call the banks of the South Fork River home. Evidenced by campsites dotting the shores along the waterway. Clothes left on the line to dry used BBQs. And for some, this is becoming a real problem.

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“A lady’s come in here before cussing, acting all crazy, knocking over flowers.”

Carter Heafner helps run the Farmer Tom’s Produce, right at the base of the river, and neighbors with the entrance to the homeless encampment. He says his customers become intimidated when people from the campsites come up the trail.

“Takes away from the business because sometimes they come in here and show out, act crazy, want stuff free all the time,” he said.

People at the sites generate tons of trash. A local organization called Keep Lincoln County Beautiful recently swept through the shoreline, collecting over a hundred bags of garbage. But everyone knows they’ll be more, and nobody has a firm grasp on a solution.

“It’s just unreal with the homeless people, people just have no idea.”

Steve Perkins has tried to help the people living along the river before, but many simply don’t want it.

“You know they’re hurting, and you try to help but you can’t help them,” Perkins said.

For Heafner, he just has to play the hand he was dealt. But he wishes city leaders could do more to help the homeless, and his business.

“The city needs to stand up and do more about the homeless people around,” Heafner said.

And the search for a solution to the problem trudges forward.

“Looks like people smarter than me would figure that out.” longtime resident Joseph Jordan said.

The clean-up group says they pick up trash every couple of months, but it seems to be a losing battle. Each time, they report collecting tons of trash.