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'Maybe this is going to shake the community' | Commissioner hopes Tent City evacuation sparks change

The order came after a rat infestation created a health hazard for the people who live there and surrounding communities.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County commissioner Pat Cotham, a longtime advocate for Charlotte's homeless population, said she hopes this week's evacuation of "Tent City" might lead to more permanent change.  

The order came after a rat infestation created a health hazard for the people who live there and surrounding communities.

"Maybe this is going to shake the community," Cotham said on WCNC Charlotte's Flashpoint.

Cotham said the county received $800,000 from FEMA to help put those people into hotels for three months.

"We do a lot of band-aids," said Cotham, suggesting solutions over the years have proven to be temporary.

RELATED: Residents in Tent City ordered to leave but offered free housing for 90 days

During the pandemic, homeless encampments have become larger, more populated, and more visible around uptown Charlotte.

The recent rat infestation echoes similar problems seen at homeless communities in Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco.  According to the CDC, rats are carriers of 35 different diseases, and can easily spread those diseases.

Cotham said the county spends $34-million a year to combat homelessness.  But suggested that's not enough.

"We don't have anyone accountable.  We don't have anyone responsible," she said. "It's always somebody else's problem."

RELATED: 'This is not a situation that anybody should be living in' | Rodent infestation hits Tent City, Mecklenburg Co. says

A county commissioner since 2012, Cotham suggested a new position created within local government that would answer to both the city and county.

See Cotham's full interview Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on WCNC Charlotte's Flashpoint.