Local News

Council considers ordinance on homeless camps

8 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 city.

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.

Habitat for Humanity donation helps build a future for Fayetteville residents one home at a time

11 The Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity was recently awarded a $5 million grant from American author and philanthropist Mackenzie Scott. The grant is part of a $436 million donation to 83 U.S. Habitat affiliates, including eight in North Carolina.

The FAHFH branch covers Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson counties. The grant will allow them to continue their work in those locations and expand into Robeson County.

The organization has been around since 1988, but they have made significant progress in providing affordable housing more recently.

“In the last 34 years, we’ve built a little over 200 homes, but 25% of those homes have been built in the last three years,” said CEO Ron Gunter. “As you’re well aware, we had Hurricanes Matthew and Florence that came through, and for about four years there, we didn’t build a single home. We did nothing but repairs for homes and mainly have had homeowners that [whose homes] were built in lower-lying areas of the city.”

In 2019, FAHFH began construction on a community of 47 homes called Oak Ridge Estate. Nine homeowners are local veterans, and 15 of the families were impacted by hurricanes.

“We’ll be finishing up Oak Ridge in June and begin moving to another part of town with more construction to build clusters of homes, anywhere from five to seven to eight homes at a time, hoping to facilitate change and strengthen and revitalize those parts of the community and the neighborhood,” he said. “Our goal is to build as many homes as we can in affordable housing.”

FAHFH helps low-income families become homeowners, but they provide more than just a house. They also offer courses to help families with the challenges of homeownership.

They have 35 online and in-person classes covering banking, insurance and home repair from experts who volunteer time.

“We try to have a holistic approach to our homeowners,” he said. “We want to help them not only get into their homes but stay in their homes.”

When someone qualifies for a home, they must commit 300 sweat equity hours. These volunteer hours combine classroom instruction, working on their future home or volunteering at ReStore, Habitat’s home improvement store.

Gunter has seen firsthand the dedication and hard work the families put into securing their homes. He recalled the emotional move-in day for a single mom of three who went through chemotherapy while still contributing her sweat equity hours to construct her house.

“To watch tears flow from her face and say, ‘I’m not going to move anymore,’” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. That’s the full payment for us. We get to stand and dedicate that home, commit that home, give them the key. And they’re now the homeowner that makes all the difference in the world.”

The FAHFH has 14 employees covering everything from community relations to family services to finances. They also have five employees at the local ReStore. They consider themselves a small but mighty team that works well together for the greater good.

“That’s one thing that’s very important: there are no ‘lone rangers’ in the Fayetteville area Habitat. We’re all part of the team, and it takes all of us working together (and it’s a lot of hard work), but it’s a great team,” Gunter said. “They all step up to do whatever’s needed to get the job done.”

The team will commemorate the completion of Oak Ridge Estates with a fundraising event, Framing the Future, on June 26. They will also be honoring Gunter on his retirement and welcoming a new CEO, Brandon Price, their current compliance and advocacy officer.

“We want to celebrate the amazing work that Ron has done in the past three years with Oak Ridge and his retirement,” said FAHFH Director of Marketing April De Leon. “And everybody that’s worked with us in the past three years, all of our vendors that have helped construct the homes [are] invited … we’re inviting the city out to celebrate all the good work that’s been done in Cumberland County.”

Framing the Future will be held June 26 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sweet Valley Ranch, 2990 Sunnyside School Road. Tickets are $100 for individuals, and sponsor tables for eight or more are still available.

Visit www.fayettevillenchabitat.org to learn more about the organization and upcoming events.

Local woman named NC mother of the year

10 If there is one thing North Carolina’s Mother of Year award winner, Demetria Davis, is, it’s busy. Mama Dee, as those around her call her, finds the time to talk about herself late at night — after the dinner is made, kids are in bed and all the tasks that fall on a mother are done.

“Sometimes, you have to carve it out and make time,” she said.

Davis grew up in Fayetteville and ran track at Terry Sanford. After high school, Davis continued to run track in college in South Carolina. She secured an endorsement from Nike and traveled the world running for the U.S. She ended up taking home a medal at the world championships in 2003. Suddenly, her days as a track star came to an end.

“I ended up getting injured. It went kind of downhill from there. I soon after met my husband. We got married, had kids. We started doing ministry together,” Davis said.

Davis described this evolution as natural and spoke about it with a loving tone. In 2012, Davis and her husband moved back to Fayetteville and started their ministry in North Carolina. Being both a mom of five children and a minister kept her busy. Davis said she has many “kids” in the community. Everyone loves “Mama Dee,” as one kid coined Davis many years ago.

She said she never intended to be nominated for Mother of the Year. An outing at a pageant led another attendee to nominate Davis for the Mother of the Year Award.

“She said just from spending time with me, she really loved my spirit. It was definitely different. I cried. There’s so many wonderful mothers out there,” Davis said.

For Davis, it is an honor to represent North Carolina and all the mothers in the state. But despite the title, Davis says she doesn’t have all the answers as a mom. Mother of the Year does not equal perfection. Like most moms, she was afraid of making mistakes with her children.

“They see everything you do. One of the most challenging things is being who God wanted me to be for them. You learn every day how to be a mother. Sometimes you are walking your way blindly,” she said.
Davis has found that mothering isn’t limited to the kids she “birthed.” Mothering, for her, extended to those kids in the community that look to her for advice and bonding. She became “attached” to many kids in the community. She’s taken kids in and even had some stay with her during Christmas time.

“You end up being a mother to kids that don’t have that at home. That was unexpected. It’s amazing.”

Her kids are also involved in sports and often bring friends home. It has become a hang-out of sorts for teenagers. Davis has two other boys right now that she says feel like her kids. She met both through her and her husband’s ministry efforts. She says her love for God and her family is her biggest passion, and it becomes easy to serve people through it.

“We love serving people. I love my family. I love being able to make them happy.”

For Mama Dee, serving her family and others includes great meals at home and catering on the weekends. Cooking is another passion for Davis. She believes that service to others can sometimes come from serving food and cooking.

“Whatever it is, I’m cooking, I am putting my all into it,” she said.

Mama Dee recently became a grandmother. Her daughter had a baby last year. She gives the same advice to her daughter about being a mother. She tells her that she will make mistakes and not to get upset at herself.

For Davis, every day is a new opportunity to learn as parents. Davis does have some advice for other new moms as well.

“Be your authentic you. You are exactly who God created you to be. Sometimes we lose track of that, but once we get back on track and be who he wanted us to be, it’s well worth it.”

Health Department offers free mosquito insecticide

The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is giving away free mosquito insecticide to Cumberland County residents while supplies last. The Mosquito Dunks product is a biological pest control agent that kills mosquito larvae. It is non-toxic to fish, birds, wildlife and pets.

Residents can pick up a two-month supply in the Environmental Health section of the third floor of the Health Department, 1235 Ramsey St., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The product is placed in water, where it floats. It will be effective for 30 days in standing water and covers 100 square feet of surface. It can be used in areas where standing water creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The active ingredient is bacillus thuringiensis. Printed instructions are available.

West Nile virus, La Crosse and Eastern equine encephalitis are the most reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina.
In addition to mosquito dunks, citizens can use other mosquito control methods, including the “tip and toss” method. Tip over any containers that have standing water and replace water in bird baths weekly.

Other ways to prevent mosquito bites are:
•Keep children’s wading pools empty or stored on
their side when not in use.
•Use insect repellent containing DEET when out
doors, which also repels ticks.
•Wear long sleeves and pants at dusk and dawn
when mosquitoes are most active or stay indoors
during these hours.
•Make sure your windows and doors have good
screens to keep mosquitoes out.

Fort Bragg soldier killed in military vehicle accident

9a Spc. Luis Herrera, 23, of Marion, North Carolina, died April 28, from injuries sustained in a military vehicle accident while conducting routine military training on Fort Bragg.

“Our thoughts and prayers, along with the Paratroopers of ‘Geronimo’ 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, are with Spc. Herrera’s wife and loved ones as we mourn the loss of Luis,” said Capt. Daigoroh Abreu, his company commander.

“Big Lou’s’ presence was a gift to us all, and his radiant smile brought warmth to all who knew him.”
Spc. Herrera was assigned to Raider Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

“Spc. Herrera was an exceptional paratrooper and an engaged friend to all those who knew him. Luis was a soldier’s soldier who always led by example and never missed a chance to leave a positive impact on those around him,” said Col. Theodore Kleisner, commander of 1st BCT.

“Our brigade was made better by the selfless service of Spc. Herrera. The leaders and paratroopers of 1st Brigade Combat Team are committed to ensuring every resource is available to his family and peers to help them through this difficult time.”

The 2-501st PIR will host a memorial for Spc. Herrera in the coming weeks.

Spc. Herrera enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2017, as an Infantryman, and served two deployments to Kuwait.

His military awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and the Parachutist Badge.

Spc. Herrera is survived by his wife, parents, family and friends.

Three additional soldiers were involved in the military vehicle accident.

One soldier was treated at Womack Army Medical Center and released. The other two soldiers were admitted for treatment and observation.

The circumstances surrounding the military vehicle accident are under investigation.

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