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Advocates for homeless community want to see statewide change in encampment handling

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — BeLoved Asheville is pushing for statewide change in how homeless camps are handled throughout the pandemic.

Advocates for homeless community want to see statewide change in encampment handling

News 13 recently spoke with one person named TJ who lives in a tent on Lexington Avenue, under the I-240 bridge in Asheville. He doesn’t want to live there forever but says it’s a step up from where he was.

“I was living outside like on the floor on the ground, sleeping,” he said. “I met my homeboy, helped me get a tent.”

TJ and his friend have since returned to the campsite cleared by NCDOT crews in early February. Amy Cantrell with BeLoved says she expects people living below the I-240 bridge will remain unbothered for the remainder of the pandemic.

Both the City of Asheville and DOT are now aligning with CDC guidance that says, “allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.” The CDC recommendation cites concerns for increased COVID spread caused by displacement.

Cantrell says she’d like to see campsite disruption policies changed on a statewide level, well after the pandemic as well. She says she’s in talks with the DOT and Asheville city leaders making the case for a seven-day notice period before clearing campsites and halting disruption altogether when freezing temperatures force the city to call a Code Purple.

A spokesperson with NCDOT shared the following statement:
We are in the process of forming a working group with the City of Asheville to establish consistency in how we address homeless encampments. We have not formalized the working group yet because CDC recommends that encampments not be removed or relocated due to COVID-19.

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