Mecklenburg expands hotel and services to former tent city residents

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A tent in the homeless encampment in upscale Charlotte, North Carolina, along 12th Street on Wednesday, February 18, 2021.

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Mecklenburg County will spend an additional $ 1 million on housing and support services for residents of the former downtown tent camp, nearly seven months after the site was cleaned up.

The money will help those still in the county-funded hotel with accommodation, including additional hotel and meal allowances, incentivize landlords to accept tenants, and expand access to a case manager, to employment services and transitional housing.

More than $ 635,000 can be reimbursed through FEMA, county officials said. The county’s share will be funded with money it received from the American Rescue Plan.

County officials have rented a hotel for residents removed from the site, with plans to operate it until September and a goal to relocate everyone.

The county council of commissioners also on Wednesday approved a related transition plan for those staying at the hotel to lessen the county’s role in the ongoing relocation effort. He shifts this work more fully to nonprofits like Roof Above and Block Love Charlotte, who have been involved from the start.

Most hotel allowances will last until the end of the year, although allowances for around 20 people extend through February 28 all the way to the roof above, including some people waiting for a housing with permanent support services.

This additional funding is another indication of the difficulty in finding accommodation for former residents of the tent city.

Of the 215 people who spent time at the county hotel, 88 are still there, according to county data. 51 others returned homeless homeless and 20 went to shelters in the area. Four have died.

Only 31 moved into permanent accommodation and one into temporary accommodation.

The others who left the hotels ended up in the county jail or have an unknown location.

The tent camp on the outskirts of town grew steadily throughout 2020, in part as people moved closer to services near Roof Above and other organizations during the pandemic.

The community has grown, with tents dotting the area near the College and 12th Street. Then, in February, citing a growing rat infestation and its threat to health and safety, Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris gave the order to clear the camp.

The challenges of rehousing

But a myriad of challenges face those working at rehousing, including unmet mental health needs, criminal history, financial barriers, and previous evictions. County officials also said a lack of affordable housing and willing owners to participate has slowed their efforts.

Karen Pelletier, division director of housing, innovation, strategy and alignment for the county’s community support services, acknowledged the significant barriers.

“This whole project has highlighted the vast gaps in housing resources for people with complex needs,” she said, including “a long history of trauma, severe persistent mental illness managed by the drug addiction, lack of training and professional opportunities and continued involvement with the criminal justice system. “

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Lauren Lindstrom is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering affordable housing. She previously covered health for The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, where she wrote about the state’s opioid crisis and lead poisoning in children. Lauren is a native of Wisconsin, a graduate of Northwestern University and a member of the Report for America 2019 corps.
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Peter M. Doran