Log in Newsletter


Bill Kirby Jr.: Removal of homeless encampments creates concern for some in the city


A city ordinance to remove homeless encampments is creating quite the stir in this community, and Lindsey Wofford gave the Fayetteville City Council a piece of her mind Monday at a public forum at City Hall.

“On April 24 at 12:15 p.m., the city put up another shiny new sign at the Gillespie bridge homeless encampment to let the residents know that they had to leave once again,” Wofford said. “They were promised resources that aren't what they appear to be. I want you to stop spewing sound bites and catch phrases that give people the impression that something’s being done. It makes people think that we have all of these amazing programs and that the homeless community is lazy and just not taking advantage of these programs when the reality is they're begging for our help. This leads to desperation and hopelessness, and last week it led to a man taking his own life at the camp where you put up one of your shiny new signs that promised him so much.”

So many more absolutely amazing people, Wofford said, have died scared and alone on the streets of Fayetteville.

“As my elected officials,  I see you at election time and on your Facebook pages taking credit for all the wonderful things that you're responsible for doing. Well, that also means that I get to hold you accountable for the crap, and I hope it makes you think twice the next time someone like Mr. Redding slides a grimy rights-violating ordinance on your desk. We are so sick and tired of half-truths. Stop telling us that there are programs if they have unattainable standards that no one qualifies for and stop putting out false information. It’s embarrassing that this is considered acceptable to anyone, especially my city leaders. And I'm not sure what it's going to take to make everybody understand that we're not letting this one go. We only get a hell of a lot louder from here.”

A city spokesman told CityView correspondent Jason Brady in a Tuesday report that some homeless people have been relocated to private and existing shelters. Brook Redding is the special projects manager in the City Manager’s Office.

Michele Ornelas gave the council a piece of her mind, too, about the homeless population of somewhere around 400-plus living life in tents, vehicles, under bridges and any place to lay their heads at night. “I look around at the City Council,” the 47-year-old Ornelas said at the public forum. “I know six of you personally. I’m there whenever you guys celebrate accomplishments. I’m there when you guys have downfalls and need a friend to talk to. I’m there, but I’m also there for every person out on that street that you guys walk by with your nose up in the air going to get your coffee down Hay Street. And you don't bat an eyelash and even say hello to those people. I'm there because they're in despair.”

Ornelas said there is a serious mental health crisis within the homeless population. “These are people who have lost a loved one, falling on hard times, lost a job. They’ve maybe had a disability.” Ornelas said, telling the council she knows what it is to be homeless. “I used to be homeless. … I just celebrated my 13th year clean this year. So when I go and I sit and I talk to these people I understand because they matter to me. They are who I was. They are who I still am. I want you all to remember who votes for you, because our homeless community votes for each and every one of you. But it’s funny that I never see any of you standing on the other side of that table with me when I'm serving the meals.”

Ornelas later told CityView Media that two council members spend more time eating at community cookouts for the homeless but they never serve meals at the community cookouts. Michele Ornelas told 'em what it is to be homeless, and Michele Ornelas said so with conviction.

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The homeless man that Lindsey Wofford told the council about and who died last week, Ornelas says, hanged himself from a tree at the Gillespie Street encampment

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Chistopher Tober says he was one of the first targets of the city homeless ordinance last year when police asked him and his mother and his service dogs to leave from the nearby Cumberland County Public Library, where they were living out of a vehicle.

“They came to tell me that I was no longer able to stay there and I must leave the area,” Tober told the City Council on Monday night at a public forum.

Tober said he received three citations from police within a week and that he was treated like a common criminal. “I'm not a criminal,” Tober nervously told the council. “ I was homeless.” Tober said he is not doing drugs and he is not an alcoholic. “I was just homeless on the streets.” Never panhandled, Tober told the council, too.

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Another homicide in the city, bringing the number to 16 so far in 2023 after a drug deal gone bad on May 7 and leaving a 27-year-old dead  i   the 1900 block of Palomino Drive, according to a Fayetteville Police Department news release. A 54-year-old suspect is charged with first-degree murder.

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The third annual Field of Blue honoring a Fayetteville police officer is scheduled to be on display today through June 16 in front of BJ's on Glensford Drive. Each  flag honors a city police officer or civilian employee, according to the sponsoring Fayetteville Police Foundation. Flags include the name of the honoree and the sponsor. Flags are $25 each. For more information, visit fay.policefoundation@gmail.com or call (910) 433-1746.

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Cumberland County residents can "fill the truck" from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse by donating nonperishable food, kid-friendly snacks and microwave items for county students who need assistance in the summer months, according to a county news release. In addition to food, you may donate hygiene items, diapers needed by students and those with families. All items will be delivered to donation points prior to the last day public schools are open on May 26. Visit cumberlandcountync.gov for more details. 

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Leave your nonperishable food items in your mailbox or by your mailbox Saturday as part of “Stamp Hunger” sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, Second Harvest Food Bank and Two Men and a Truck.

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“Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation and the Friends of the Cancer Center are very grateful for the endowment and the Cumberland Community Foundation for making this program possible,” Sabrina Brooks, vice president of the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation, says in a news release about the Karen Parker Allen Memorial Endowment, a grant that supports cancer-affected families with children. The program, the release says, supoorts families a day of activities free from the stress of dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

"Once the patients are identified, the Friends of the Cancer Center Advisory Council works directly with each family to plan an outing of interest," Brooks said. "We want families to have a day to enjoy normal family activities without having to focus on cancer treatment schedules or other things

 that may be associated with the cancer diagnosis. We hope these activities will let the kids be kids during a difficult time.”  The endowment, according to the foundation, is in memory of Karen Parker Allen, who was 55 when she died in 2016 after a five-year battle with Stage 4 colon cancer. Mrs. Allen is survived by her husband and nine children. The endowment is administered by the Cumberland Community Foundation.

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When it comes to reading, teachers will go the extra mile for students at Bowley Elementary School on Fort Bragg, and especially Latonya Leeks, the school principal. Leeks, according to a news release, is scheduled to tandem parachute into the school picnic between 1 and 1:30 p.m. this afternoon along with retired Sgt. Sunndale Hyde, a Fort Bragg Golden Knight since 2015 and former Army linguist. Now that’s a principal, when it comes to reading, who is committed to her students.

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Don’t forget that you can treat that special lady who cooks your meals, washes your clothes and gets you off to school in the mornings with a Mother’s Day horse-and-buggy carriage ride from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday downtown, according to the Cool Spring Downtown District.  The rides, which can seat as many as four adults and two children, are $75 to include as many as six riders. You may purchase tickets at 222 Hay St.

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The Cumberland Community Foundation has announced 2023 Robert H. Short Scholars, according to the foundation website. Recipients are Nadiin Ali, Jack Britt High School; Mark Adams II and Terra Smith, Cumberland Polytechnic High School; Gabriel Baker and Jaylen Moment, Pine Forest High School; Grace Guevarra, Seventy-First High School; Ayla Jensen and Jackson Miller, Massey Hill Classical High School; Landon Knox and Kathy Lavasser, Cape Fear High School; Sanna Lindsey, Gray’s Creek High School; Jada Murrain and Alannah McMillan, Reid Ross Classical High School; Janiel Mercado and Makayla Whitted, Cumberland International Early College; and Makayla Smith, Northwood Temple Academy.

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Pitt Dickey is miffed. “What happened to the Babe Ruth hit his first home run sign,” he asks about the highway marker signifying the baseball slugger’s first round-tripper that once stood along Gillespie Street. “I went to look for it and it wasn’t in its old location.”

Not to worry. “The Babe Ruth historical marker is state property and was removed by state officials for repair and cleaning. The North Carolina Division of Cultural Resources manages the historical maker program in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation,” says Loren Bymer, marketing and communications director for the city. “We are unaware at this time how long it will take for the maker to be repaired and reinstalled.”

When in need of answers regarding the state DOT, always turn to Andrew Barksdale, my former newspaper colleague and now a DOT public relations officer. “NCDOT crews removed the sign about three weeks ago because it was damaged due to wear and tear and cracking from long-term cold and sun exposure. NCDOT then boxed it and created a shipping label and a carrier with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources came to Fayetteville and picked it up. We think it can be repaired -- that is, that it won't require the manufacture of a new sign. When it's repaired, they will ship it back to NCDOT in Fayetteville, which will then reinstall it in the same location from whence it came.”

But, Barksdale says, it may take three to four months to restore the marker.

The Babe hit that first home run as a professional on March 7, 1914.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.