CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the shadow of the Bank of America Tower, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police find a homeless camp tucked back in a small patch of woods off Brevard Street.
There are tents and it appears the tents are currently occupied, but at the moment no one is around. In one of the tents, Sgt. Ivan Reitz finds nearly a half-dozen computer bags. All are empty -- the computers long gone.
There is only one explanation to Reitz why a homeless person would have all those empty computer bags.
“These are gotten through either grabbing them at bus stops, breaking into cars, or victimizing somebody in some way to take the property,” he says.
With that kind of evidence, Sgt. Ritz says the man living in the tent could be arrested, but that is not the goal of a new police approach to deal with the homeless and the crimes they might commit or are committed against them.
No longer is the goal to arrest or roust the homeless.
“The goal is to make a connection, the linkage to different services,” said Darren Brown, a councilor from Charlotte’s Urban Ministries. Brown actually goes out with police officers when they go into the camps to offer help to those living there.
Officer Bob Goodwin of CMPD is along with Brown on this trip into what was once a camp for 20 or more people, again located in some woods near Brevard Street. Goodwin explained what the new police policy offers the homeless.
“There are councilors that can address homelessness, drug issues, alcohol issues. They help them find jobs. Whatever resources they need, outreach provides them,” he said.
One of the team’s success stories can be found just the other side of the railroad tracks from the Music Factory parking lot. There, what was once a homeless camp has been totally cleared and cleaned up. Many of those who called it home have now moved into shelters or have, in some cases, found permanent shelter.
“We are helping some guys that have been homeless for 20 years, so it was a really good feeling to help those guys out,” said Brown.