With Trump Coming to Town for Scaled-Back RNC, Charlotte Might Shut Down Nearby Homeless Encampment

In an election roiled by coronavirus and racial injustice, three young voters tell us what's motivating them for this election. President Trump came up early and often. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By patmoran

July 29, 2020

Charlotte’s growing “Tent City” encampment lies a few blocks away from the RNC’s site.

Residents of Charlotte’s “Tent City” homeless encampment might be forced to move out next month when a downsized Republican National Convention comes to North Carolina’s largest city.

Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte (HIC) Coalition, a local nonprofit, told WSOCTV that people may be removed from the plot of private property outside of uptown Charlotte to beautify an area just a few blocks away from the Trump convention’s main events.

Residents of the encampment told WCNC they were recently informed that they will have to get out by Aug. 24, the scheduled kick-off date for RNC events.

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One day after President Trump canceled the Jacksonville iteration of the RNC last week due to rising COVID-19 cases, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted that the city will host a scaled-down version of the convention with delegates only.

Despite the modest scope of the convention, Trump told Fox News Monday that he intends to attend the event in person to accept his party’s nomination.

There is no reliable estimate of how many people are dwelling in the tent encampment close to Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center. In April, Spectrum News reported over 50 tents onsite, but the number has increased since then. For Tent City residents, this small location is their only home.

Monday morning, Ryan Pitkin, editor for Charlotte alternative newspaper Queen City Nerve, reported on Twitter that the Tent City shutdown deadline had been moved up from Aug. 24.

Pitkin posted a statement from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department that said the department does not initiate evictions on private property unless landowners file a trespassing complaint.

“In this case, the property owners have reached out to CMPD concerning the removal of tents … on their property,” CMPD went on to say. “They have asked for tents to be removed by August 1.”

By Monday afternoon, the police had revised their assessment, saying that the property owners are refraining from asking occupants to move for now.

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As far as HIC Coalition founder Kenya Joseph is concerned though, the reprieve still puts the Tent City residents on thin ice.

During the pandemic, the coalition has been providing residents with supplies like sleeping bags, toiletries and hygiene products. In addition to keeping the homeless community safe, they have also called on the county and city to come up with a long-term solution.

“We are fighting the good fight and trying to advocate for different members to try to get them services and try to get them into a housing situation,” Joseph told WCNC.

In a statement, the coalition also reached out to the community for help.

“The Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition challenges one million Mecklenburg County residents to donate $20. If we can get $20 from every resident, that’s $20 million dollars to put towards affordable housing in the coming days,” the coalition said.

Homelessness Expected to Rise in NC

The campaign to help the Tent City residents comes as North Carolina’s homeless population is expected to swell.

With the July 27 expiration of the federal CARES act eviction moratorium, implemented to protect renters struggling financially during the pandemic, CNBC reported that 43% of North Carolina households will be unable to pay rent and might face eviction proceedings.

In 2016, there were 2.3 million evictions nationwide, said John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. “There could be that many evictions in August,” he added. 

Black Americans will be particularly hard hit by the looming homelessness crisis, global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross reported in a new analysis.

While almost half of White tenants said they were confident they could continue to pay rent, only 26% of Black tenants said they would be able to stay in their homes. 

This flood of potential homelessness will join the thousands of eviction cases that have already been filed statewide since June 20, when North Carolina’s eviction moratorium expired.

In the meantime, the HIC Coalition continues to advocate for a stay of eviction until a permanent solution for the Tent City residents can be reached. They are asking authorities to issue emergency need vouchers, which would foster rapid re-housing choices, Joseph said.

“We have to take care of our citizens,” Joseph offered. “We have to take care of our community.”


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