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Homeless people camped on state right-of-way removed and given temporary shelter

Michigan couple among those staying in local motel, given 21-day timeframe


A Michigan couple who were among roughly two dozen homeless people camped at Gillespie Street and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway are living in a motel after the city removed the encampment.

Rick and Bernie — along with their pet Chihuahua, Coca — are staying in a nearby motel. Fayetteville city officials said they made sure that each homeless camper was offered temporary housing before they were removed from the area.

To be eligible for the 21-day temporary shelter, each of them had to agree to register with Cumberland County’s Continuum of Care program, which is administered by Cumberland HealthNet. The program maintains a database of homeless people and assesses their needs to provide appropriate assistance. They are then placed in appropriate shelters and provided with extra resources to support them.

“We were moved to Motel 6, and it’s on the OK side of things,” Rick said in a text message. “There are about six rooms here (with people) from our campsite.”

Late last week, Jonathan, another homeless camper, was apprehensive about the move. Like others at the camp, Jonathan was released from prison and says he is also listed on the sex offender registry. Upon release from prison, Jonathan reported to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, which directed him to the Gillespie Street bridge campsite, he said. That would become his official address, he said.

Jonathan pointed to his ankle monitor and noted that it is the newest model.

“You can shower with it,” he said.

He also said the monitor can track anyone within a foot of any location. Jonathan said he was concerned that relocating to an unfamiliar area would violate terms of his probation and registry obligations. He said that 17 other people on the registry had lived at the campsite.

“Sometime within the 21 days, they are supposed to be working with us to find permanent, affordable housing for us,” Jonathan said.

The program also will help them find jobs, write resumes, and attain needed certifications.

“If that’s what we want,” he added.

In Jonathan’s case, the program also may help him obtain disability payments.

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The homeless had been camping on the state-owned right-of-way at the MLK Freeway on and off ramps at Gillespie Street. For a while, the state did not grant local governments the authority to remove such camps on state property.

Both the city and county recently passed ordinances that allowed them to remove homeless campsites from public property. Recently, the state acquiesced and allowed the city to start removal procedures that included placing a sign on the property labeling it an “illegal” campsite. The sign also provided the phone number for Continuum of Care.

The sign warned occupants to remove personal property within 72 hours, but the move took more than a week to complete.

Funding for the temporary housing comes from the federal government. According to city spokesman Loren Bymer, the money is part of the American Rescue Plan, which is tailored to help individuals and communities who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The city selected Fayetteville Urban Ministry to administer the program.

“We have partnered with a variety of nonprofits in the past, and (Fayetteville Urban Ministry) has demonstrated continued excellence in serving our community,” Bymer said in an email.

Bymer declined to identify where the homeless people are now housed but said the temporary housing includes private and existing shelters.

“Funding acquired for this program is 21 days with the requirement of participating in the Coordinated Entry Program. During that time, every resource will be explored to provide a shelter option to participating individuals,” Bymer wrote.

Fayetteville, homeless, shelter, Cumberland County