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Former Tent City residents must move out from county-funded hotels Thursday. Where are they going?

Thursday is the deadline when any former tent city residents will have to move out of county-funded hotels. The county says many have found permanent housing.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thursday is the deadline for any former tent city residents still living in county-funded hotels to move out.

Mecklenburg County officials said they started moving people from the hotels into other housing options a week before the deadline.

In February, 215 homeless neighbors were forced to move from an encampment just north of Uptown Charlotte due to an abatement order from the public health director. The order was due to a rat infestation at the encampment. 

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"I would say that it has been extremely challenging," Karen Pelletier, who oversaw the initiative for Mecklenburg County, said.

The goal was to give the homeless residents 90 days to find a job, save up money, and be matched with permanent housing. 

However, there weren't enough housing options in the amount of time to meet the goal. The county extended the deadline to Sept. 30. 

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"Things have gone far more smoothly, smoothly than I could have ever had hoped for, or imagined," Pelletier said. 

As of move-out day, 100 former encampment residents had been matched with permanent housing, Pelletier said. 

Additionally, 38 former tent city residents are already in permanent homes, she added. Last week, WCNC Charlotte spoke with one former tent city resident who got his keys to his own apartment.

Pelletier noted 72 people were still living in county-funded hotels as of Sept. 24. Of that, 68 of them will move to hotels funded by local non-profits such as Catholic Charities, Roof Above, and Block Love. Four people chose to deny other housing options, Pelletier said. 

Sixty-two people that will move to the hotels paid for by the nonprofits are matched with a housing program and will live there until their permanent housing becomes available. 

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Pelletier said 10 others are waiting on the new permanent supportive housing program coming online in February. 

The graph below shows the breakdown of what happened to all 215 residents who moved into the county hotels seven months ago. 

Mecklenburg County estimates more than 3,100 people are experiencing homelessness in the Charlotte metro area. 

"We need affordable, permanent housing," Pelletier said. 

A Roof Above spokesperson told WCNC Charlotte that Tent City was a symptom of a larger problem.

"I think we really saw the community, with the visibility of the encampment, have such an outcry around homelessness," she said. "And we just want to make sure people know even though it's not necessarily visible, that homelessness still exists." 

The county will soon decide how to spend some $215 million it received in COVID-relief money from the federal government. 

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Pelletier hopes some of it will go towards a lasting solution. 

"I don't think we're turning our back on any possible permanent affordable housing opportunity," she said. "And that includes the purchase of hotels."

Other communities have found success with purchasing hotels for permanent housing for their homeless residents. In June, WCNC Charlotte's Hunter Sáenz spoke with one program in Delaware that Mecklenburg County has since been in touch with. 

The county will hold a public hearing on Oct. 5 to get the public's input on how they'd like to see the relief money be spent. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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