County will end hotel housing for former ‘tent city’ residents this fall

Of the 200-plus former homeless encampment residents moved to hotels by the county in February, 125 remain.

Mecklenburg County plans to end its temporary housing program that shelters former residents of a tent encampment that once sat just north of uptown.

During this week’s Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said that since moving more than 200 encampment residents to two local hotels, roughly 80 have been connected with housing or decided to leave, and 125 remain who would otherwise be homeless. 

“We are going to keep the hotels open until the end of September,” Diorio said. “At that point, we’ll have to see who is left, what their needs are, and where we may need to go from there.”

Why it matters

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard, an estimated 3,298 people were experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County as of March 31.

Seventy-six percent of those homeless in the county were Black, according to the data. That total also included 393 households with children.

The already prominent issue of homelessness and housing insecurity in Charlotte was exacerbated by the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to calls for city officials to act with urgency as the unsheltered population and tent city began to swell.

By the numbers

In February, the Mecklenburg health department issued an abatement order for the encampment, citing rat infestation and worsening air quality caused by cooking fires.

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Hours before the eviction went into effect, the county moved more than 200 people to local hotels, where they got meals, laundry, security and social services, Diorio says. 

With support from nonprofit organizations like Block Love Charlotte, Roof Above, and Hearts Beat As One, the homeless residents who moved to the hotels have had access to substance abuse and mental health counseling and workforce development opportunities.

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio shown in a screenshot as she addresses a virtual meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, July 13, 2021. Qcity Metro

Diorio says of the original 200-plus residents living at the hotels, 13 have permanent housing, 32 have been connected to housing resources, and 55 have been connected with job training and employment. 

She added that the city of Charlotte, through a federally funded emergency solutions grant, contracted with United Way and Catholic Charities to provide housing for up to 75 of the homeless residents, along with a one-year rental subsidy and supportive services.

“These are folks with very low barriers to housing. These are not the folks with high needs,” said Diorio. “Catholic Charities does believe that there are about 40 guests in the hotels ready to access housing.”

While there have been some successes in this effort, Diorio said, the relocation effort has faced some challenges, including prostitution, drug use and criminal activity around the hotels.

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She says seven guests have been moved to the county jail, 15 to emergency shelter, and 40 have left the hotels and “decided to be homeless. Three have died, she said, and the whereabouts of two are unknown. 

“We are struggling a little bit,” Diorio said. “This is hard work; it’s been very hard work, and will continue to be hard work, but we’re going to continue to work with these folks.”

Sarafina Wright
Sarafina covers Historic West End under a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She earned a journalism degree from Howard University. Email news tips to sarafinawright@qcitymetro.com or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @sarafinasaid.

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