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Grassroots response launched to help Uptown tent city residents
Initiative aims to transition from encampment
 
Published Thursday, February 18, 2021 8:30 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Davita Galloway works the computer at Dupp & Swat as part of an initiative to help homeless people encamped Uptown with supplies. Mecklenburg County is enforcing an order to vacate the property on 12th Street between Tryon and Trade streets.

Everyone can help tent city residents who are facing displacement by Mecklenburg County order.

The county issued an “Abatement of Imminent Hazard Order for Encampment” on Feb. 16, giving homeless people in the tent city on 12th Street between Tryon and College streets 72 hours to leave. A rat infestation was cited as the reason.

County Manger Dena Diorio chastised Charlotte government and Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for lack of response. She said the city pledged transportation to move people to a hotel, but was not standing by that promise, and that law enforcement will not clear the encampment. The city and Sheriff Garry McFadden each responded with a statement.

“This is a serious issue and one we have been working on with the County,” read part of the city’s statement. “To be clear, Mecklenburg County is the lead agency for homeless and social services in our community. Since 2018, the City has provided more than $35 million to support efforts to end and prevent homelessness.”

Said McFadden: “Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, I have always assisted Mecklenburg County when called upon with a clear and concise plan of action. Every Monday and Wednesday I am on a policy call with all city and county officials, an opportune time to discuss any protocols or concerns, however, logistics on the removal of persons or property from the North End Encampment have never been mentioned.”

Shock was the initial reaction from the community, followed by a grassroots call to action. Creatives and activists Davita Galloway, Greg Jackson, Travis Jackson and Ohavia Phillips launched #HELLAHOHMEPROJECT, an initiative to solve housing insecurity. They found a safe haven for donations at Dupp&Swat, Galloway’s creative community space at Camp North End, which she co-owns with her brother Dion.

They organized two days of giving, using Dupp&Swat as a drop-off point for donations on Feb. 18-19 from 12-4 p.m. (face coverings are required). They provided a list of items including microwaveable items, dry/canned goods, snacks, cutlery, laundry detergent, napkins, plates, wipes, sanitizer, cleaning products, masks and gloves.

“Davita gave us a place and literally me, Davita, Greg and Travis started going to town, creating graphics, making lists,” said Phillips, a talk show host. “I was talking to [artist] Ricky Singh, who had boots on the ground who was telling me, ‘here are some things we need.’ We literally worked together as a collaborative with all of our networks to bring the community to Dupp&Swat so we can get as much as we can, and unfortunately, in as little time as we can. Seeing how the community has shown up, it’s overwhelming.”

A tally is kept to determine what’s needed to help with the transition from the tent city, with volunteers sorting donations into clear bags and bins. Donations will be given to Singh, who will distribute them to people in tent city. Singh leads Charlotte Food and Mutual Aid and is also the head of school at Charlotte Lab Upper School. Charlotte Food and Mutual Aid has gone out to tent city every two weeks for the last year to provide essentials to the residents of tent city. He connected with local nonprofit housing advocacy organization Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte and Phillips when the county order was issued.

“What’s happening right now, for many of us, has always been happening. The work is the work,” Singh said. “We weren’t the only ones out there every two weeks for the last year. One of the phrases I have tried to use this year was ‘tap in with us,’ join in on the joy of being able to love and nurture your city and your fellow Charlotte brothers and sisters. That is what I would encourage. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There are ways in which we can all work together. There is power and strength in numbers to cause change and to support and pick up one another, and that is what I think is happening now.”

#HELLAHOHMEPROJECT is also taking donations for Heal Charlotte, which Greg Jackson founded to address housing insecurity and raised over $5,000 in the first 24 hours. Donations can be made at healcharlotte.org or via Cash App $Crownkeepers with the memo #HELLAHOHMEPROJECT.

The #HELLAHOHMEPROJECT established what they call the Contingency Plan, which would aim to house 25 people through Heal Charlotte’s existing housing assistance partnership with Baymont Suites. A room costs $50 per day, and the concern is that not all 150 people will be taken care of, which is where Heal Charlotte comes in.

“What we have been working on is the Contingency Plan,” Greg Jackson said. “How do we work with the families who are going to fall through the cracks because there are more bodies than beds?”

Heal Charlotte has 17 rooms for families, paying their rent and helping two families find permanent housing.  

“We have shown that we have the capacity and sustainability to run this program long term,” Greg Jackson said.

“[The message to] the people of Charlotte is not to focus on how big or how small their donation or contribution is,” said Travis Jackson, founder of HBCU Pride Nation. “We have to come together at the end of the day. What’s really great about this time is the issue is becoming very transparent. Some of the people who may not be in those board rooms or in different areas where these issues are talked about, a lot of people are being able to see what is really going on. Understand that this is a bigger issue than all of us, but all of us can contribute in some type of way.”

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