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3 former homeless camp residents have died. Broader housing plan underway.

Alison Kuznitz, Lauren Lindstrom
·3 min read

Three people have died who were living in temporary county-funded hotel rooms, following the dismantling of the tent city encampment in uptown Charlotte, a Mecklenburg official disclosed Tuesday.

One person’s death was related to substance abuse, and the other two residents had “underlying medical conditions,” said Karen Pelletier, director of strategy, innovation and alignment for the county’s Community Support Services.

“It’s been very sad,” Pelletier told county commissioners during their board meeting Tuesday evening. She did not provide any other identifying details, including the people’s ages, when they died, and whether family members had been notified.

More than 200 people were removed from the encampment in February, as inspectors identified a growing rat infestation and deteriorating safety conditions. Public Health Director Gibbie Harris’ imminent hazard order to clear the site within a hectic 72-hour period kicked off a massive relocation effort by government, nonprofit and grassroots groups.

Pelletier said there are 168 people still living in two hotels, though the county plans to consolidate into a single location within the next four weeks. She recommended the lease, initially expected to run through June, be extended until at least Sept. 30.

The timeline, she said, reflects the lengthy process of matching people to supportive housing programs. It can take between one month to 120 days to secure leases and move, Pelletier said.

“Having a viable housing solution for every guest is going to be difficult,” Pelletier said, noting some have criminal records. “Our community does not have landlords that are willing to lease to individuals with such factors.”

Mental health and substance abuse concerns are other barriers to housing, she said.

Buying hotels? Tiny housing? Tents are cleared in Charlotte. What’s next?

The varied progress to rehouse people is emblematic of the significant challenges facing those who left the encampments.

About 48 people who’ve experienced chronic homelessness will need permanent supportive housing, while 71 will require rapid re-housing programs, according to Pelletier.

And 30 people have been matched to a housing program, Pelletier, and are in various stages of signing leases.

Others have left or been removed without a home.

Among the people who left the hotel so far, Pelletier said, 18 people transitioned back into homelessness and six people were arrested and taken to the Mecklenburg County jail.

County officials are unsure where another six people went, and another three found permanent housing.

Personal items are hung on a fence at the tent encampment near Graham Street in Charlotte, NC on Friday, February 19, 2021. Residents of tent encampment are being required to vacate the area after health risks from rodent infestation was found in the area.
Personal items are hung on a fence at the tent encampment near Graham Street in Charlotte, NC on Friday, February 19, 2021. Residents of tent encampment are being required to vacate the area after health risks from rodent infestation was found in the area.

‘One person at a time’

County Manager Dena Diorio on Wednesday said officials quickly realized the initial 90-day hotel lease wouldn’t be enough time to get everyone housed, especially those with more complex needs.

Federal funding allocated to Mecklenburg from the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed earlier this year could be used for rehousing efforts, she said, including additional vouchers and rental assistance.

“It’s really one person at a time,” she said. “We’re going to stick with it. Our goal is to make sure every single person that’s living in that hotel gets a place to live.”

The Charlotte City Council this month approved $2.1 million for one year of rent and utility subsidies and case management for 75 former camp residents.

The money uses federal COVID-19 relief funds and will go to the United Way of Central Carolinas, housing nonprofit Socialserve and Catholic Charities.

Those who qualified for the program were determined to have fewer obstacles to housing and had a good shot at staying housed when the subsidies end, program leaders said.

$2M in city funds will house former Charlotte tent encampment residents for a year

Affordable rent? Charlotte region doesn’t even have half of what’s needed.