Nearly 1,500 syringes found at Morganton homeless camp as sites continue to pop up

One city official said 17 new camps popped up last year.
City leaders in Burke County have faced an uptick in their homeless population in recent years.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:11 PM EDT
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MORGANTON, N.C. (WBTV) - City leaders in Burke County have faced an uptick in their homeless population in recent years.

City leaders said camps are popping up under bridges and roadways, leaving behind filthy and dangerous materials, while also potentially costing residents money.

“It’s become a much larger part of our code enforcement issues,” one city official said. “Over the past few years, I’d say it was just five percent of our issues, and now it’s gone up to maybe sixty-percent.”

Wendy Smith said it costs money to clean up the camps in Morganton, and it’s also becoming dangerous.

In fact, at one homeless camp on Fleming Drive, workers recovered nearly 1,500 syringes. Many of them were still loaded with what was likely some sort of dangerous drug.

They also removed about 30 gallons of human waste, plus trash and residue from rat infestation.

“This is unfortunately what we typically find in these larger encampments,” Thomas Warburton said. “And these larger encampments are not rare, there are many, many of those.”

Warburton works in part with the city’s code enforcement, and has seen an explosion in the number of camps in the area.

He said the homeless trend is really picking up all over the country, with many relocating to the area for the same reasons other people do - because it’s a nice place to live.

“Just last year alone, we had 17 additional sites,” Warburton said.

Officials said if someone moves onto your property, whether they’re supposed to or not, you’re responsible for the cleanup.

“We have had several properties with cleanup in the tens of thousands of dollars issues,” Smith said.

Warburton said Morganton is just dealing with the same problems as big cities.

“Trying to keep that hometown [feel] still, but we’re dealing with the same things others are dealing with across America,” he said.

The City said it hasn’t issued any citations, but they do want property owners to contact them if they see trouble brewing.

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