Lawsuit comes days after camp learned police would not force people out in anticipation of scaled-down Trump convention.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Samar and Ahmad Ismaiel, seek damages from the owners of the adjoining property, who have allowed more than 100 tents to be set up since March, and asked a judge to order the camp to be dismantled.
The encampment, called “Tent City,” is a refuge for people displaced by coronavirus’ economic fallout in North Carolina’s largest city, Randall Hitt, chief engagement officer for nearby homeless shelter The Urban Ministry Center, told WCNC last May.
One resident, Angelique Diaz-Landry, told WBTV last week that many of the people living in the encampment had been turned away from local shelters that are filled to capacity.
In the suit, the plaintiff claims that the defendants have “permitted and in fact encouraged” the creation of Tent City.
“The encampment has made the Plaintiff’s Property completely inaccessible from North College Street,” the complaint reads.
“As a result of the homeless encampment, the Plaintiff’s Property is continually filled with trash, debris, and human waste. The Plaintiff has been forced to clean the Property at substantial expense to itself.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the plaintiff’s property has decreased in value, citing 41 crimes reported on the block, including 25 assaults, eight robberies and six thefts. The plaintiff claimed that a potential buyer was lined up for the property, but that the buyer had significant concerns about property damage due to the homeless encampment.
The defendants listed on the lawsuit are Worldcom Network Services, Inc. and MSC College Street II, LLC. The second defendant is the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, which operates The Urban Ministry Center as part of a partnership called Roof Above, Charlotte alternative newspaper Queen City Nerve reported. All the tents currently stand on several parcels owned by the two defendants. There are no tents pitched on the Ismaiels’ property.
When WBTV posted news of the suit on Twitter, users’ responses fell mostly on the side of the Tent City dwellers, with many users hoping and advocating for a long-term housing solution for the residents.
“I doubt people would say ‘tear it down’ if they had to live there,” user Shane Randall wrote. “Show compassion my god.”
Another user, under the name “Dr. Mikey,” seemed incredulous.
“So it’s not even the guys land their(sic) on?” Dr. Mikey posted. “He wants them gone from across the street?”
News of the lawsuit, which was filed last Monday, came days after Tent City residents learned they had a reprieve from being forced off the two plots of private property to make way for the Republican National Convention, scheduled to take place a few blocks away.
As Cardinal & Pine reported, concerns had spread through the camp that local leaders would tear down the settlement on Aug. 24 in time for Trump’s scaled-back event.
The same day the lawsuit was filed, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department posted a statement that said the department does not initiate evictions on private property unless landowners file a trespassing complaint.
But then CMPD exacerbated fears of a shut down when they wrote: “The property owners have reached out to CMPD concerning the removal of tents … on their property. They have asked for tents to be removed by August 1.”
Later that afternoon, CMPD reversed their assessment, stating that the property owners had not requested that any Tent City residents be evicted.
Saturday’s news of the pending lawsuit removed that reprieve for the camp’s residents, a reminder that Tent City’s tenuous housing arrangement remains on shaky ground.
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