City of Salisbury and police working to clear out homeless camps

Police gave the seven people a three-day notice to remove any items they wanted to keep to prevent them from being thrown away
Police gave the seven people a three-day notice to remove any items they wanted to keep to prevent them from being thrown away
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 2:44 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Two homeless camps, one that had been set up on public property in the woods off Bendix Drive near I-85 near E. Innes St., and another on private property just off Jake Alexander Boulevard, were recently cleared out by the City of Salisbury Code Services and police.

On Monday crews were packing up loads of shopping carts, clothes, trash, and other items on the ground at the Bendix Drive location.

A police spokesperson said that approximately seven people were living in the Bendix Drive camp, and seven more in the camp in the woods off Jake Alexander Blvd. All were given a three-day warning to remove any items they wanted to keep before the area would be cleared.

“We came out to investigate to see if there’s any homeless in the area,” said Dennis Rivers, Homeless Liaison for the Salisbury Police Department. “Once we did so we identified some homeless out here and once we identified them, we made contact with them to talk about some resources that we can connect them to. We talk about resources first and try to get them off the property and get them to safe sheltering and then from that that’s when we explain to them about cleaning up their property, getting up their belonging and everything, try to get them three days. We let them know if they’re not cleaning up their property or removed from the property that their belongings will be thrown away.”

The effort to clean up the camps came after police said they had received a number of complaints from citizens about the trash and about being accosted by people asking for money in nearby shopping center parking lots.

While the Bendix Drive property has been cleaned by the City of Salisbury, the property owner is now responsible for cleaning the property off Jake Alexander Blvd.

“We’ve cleared the property of all its inhabitants, what will do next is start working with the property owner n clean up,” said Michael Cotilla of Salisbury Code Services.

The Point In Time count conducted earlier this year found 238 people in Rowan County living in shelters, outside, in cars, or in structures not suitable for human habitation. The 2023 Point in Time count shows that 155 citizens are sheltered and 83 are unsheltered countywide. Fifty-nine of the sheltered individuals are living independently in transitional housing either on Rowan Helping Ministries’ campus or in housing funded by the Back At Home Program.

One homeless couple who asked not to be identified said they did not agree with the clean up efforts.

“That’s all we have,” they said. “Everything that people have being homeless, that’s all they got. The City comes in and takes it all, what are they going to do then? They got to get out here and try to get more stuff, blankets, tents, food, tarps, it’s not fair.”

City officials say they are making an effort to offer services to those displaced and that they do give fair warning before any items are removed. They also say clearing out the homeless camps is a matter of public safety.

“You don’t know what the unknown is. Sadly, you don’t know what’s out here other than general animals. Living out here you are subject to getting harassed or getting assaulted by other homeless or people just coming through here,” Rivers added. “A lot of the campsites do have a lot of drug addiction. Some don’t have a drug addiction but they have an alcohol addiction, and there are mental health issues.”

The City of Salisbury offers resources through a partnership with Rowan Helping Ministries. To learn more, contact Dennis Rivers at 704-638-5342, or Rowan Helping Ministries Housing Services at 704-637-6838, ext. 110.