- Tuesday, 10 May 2022
- Written by Jason Brady
The Fayetteville City Council on Monday, May 2, unanimously but cautiously accepted a staff proposal establishing an ordinance that would substantially curb homeless encampments throughout Fayetteville.
The proposed ordinance would allow the city to remove “tent city” encampments occupied by homeless individuals if deemed a danger to the public or the homeless occupants. The encampments could be on public or private property.
Assistant City Attorney Lisa Harper said the ordinance would allow camping on private property if the owner consented. It would regulate how long such encampments could remain on that property.
Some council members expressed concern about the proposed ordinance when staff could not specifically identify places to house or shelter homeless people once they were removed from their encampments.
Brook Redding, assistant to the city manager and one of the presenters, continuously emphasized that the city would not close down an encampment if beds or other shelters were not available to those being affected by the ordinance.
Harper emphasized that shutting down an encampment would not be legal if there were no alternative means to shelter the homeless.
“If no beds were available, it would be a Constitutional violation,” she said. Harper also suggested the council could limit the ordinance.
Despite the assurances, councilmember Shakeyla Ingram continuously asked where the homeless would go after an encampment was shut down. She also said many of the homeless suffer from mental health issues, and she feared that removing them from their encampment would trigger them. She also asked why the military was not involved in the discussion since many of the homeless are veterans.
Ingram's concern resonated throughout the council. Council members Larry Wright and D.J. Haire echoed Ingram’s concerns. “Where they go (after being evicted) will not be answered tonight,” Haire said.
“Let’s not make this an issue of not caring,” Mayor Mitch Colvin said at one point. He contended that those sleeping in the rights-of-way are in danger from nearby traffic and the city needed to take action.
Among the major findings by the task force is that the city needs a policy that regulates homeless campsites on public and private property, and in vehicles.
Councilmember Johnny Dawkins, a Republican, took the opportunity to criticize Gov. Roy Cooper's administration for not allowing the city to remove homeless encampments on state-owned highway rights-of-way within the city.
“I want the public to understand. I get complaints every single week. It’s becoming a real issue for businesses. The governor and the NCDoT will not let us do anything about it,” Dawkins said.
City Manager Doug Hewett said the city has agreements with the state to cut vegetation and remove debris on some NCDoT rights-of-way. Keeping them maintained would help the appearance of those areas where the homeless tend to congregate.
In summary, the Task Force recommends:
•Adopt an ordinance that addresses: camping on public property, camping on private property and is enforceable and within legal limits.
•Adopt a city policy that provides a standardized procedure that governs the cleanup of public property used for temporary shelters.
•Establish an agreement with NC DoT providing shared jurisdiction of rights-of-way in the city.
•Establish an “Impact Reduction Program” that provides a protocol when the city engages a homeless and “unsheltered” individual in
The report recommended that council either accept the report and direct staff to bring a draft ordinance forward for adoption at a future council meeting, or to accept the report and direct staff to bring back alternative ordinance recommendations.
Councilmember Courtney Banks-McLaughlin motioned to accept the report and asked the staff to bring back options that address the question of where homeless individuals would go after vacating an encampment. Councilmember Dawkins seconded the motion.
The proposal with alternative ordinance proposals will come before city council at a subsequent meeting where councilmembers can review the changes before officially adopting them.