Park clean-up sweeps out Fayetteville homeless
Posted June 24, 2008 6:13 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — City crews have removed about a half-dozen homeless people from underneath a bridge that borders a new park, prompting criticism from homeless advocates.
The people lived under the North Cool Springs Street Bridge, which has become part of the first phase of the Cross Creek Linear Park. The park will eventually become part of a greenway system that will run along Cross Creek from downtown to the Cape Fear River.
City officials wanted the bridge area cleaned up before they cut the ribbon on the park Friday.
Officer Stacy Swinton, who works with the homeless in Fayetteville, said she warned the people living under the bridge several times that they would have to move.
The people urinated and littered in the creek and often used drugs, Swinton said.
"Oh my goodness, it was terrible. It was an eyesore. I would get numerous complaints," she said.
City crews took beds and other personal items from under the bridge Monday and tossed them in the garbage.
Swinton said the worn-out items had been there for a decade or more and none of what was thrown away had any value.
“We’re talking about old mattresses, clothing, bicycle seats,” she said. "Those (people) that were here were able to grab what they wanted and they vacated."
She said she told the people they could try to find space at local homeless shelters, which she admitted usually have limited room.
But Tom Lambeth, the manager of the City Rescue Mission, which hasn't reopened since it burned last year, said the city should have done more to provide the people with another place to go.
"To tell them, 'You got to move' with nowhere to put them is wrong. It's just like eminent domain coming in and taking your house," Lambeth said.
The City Council took ownership of a 21-bed homeless shelter known as the Hope Center in February. The shelter closed years ago, and it could be months before it’s ready to open.
Police said they plan to keep an eye on the bridge to make sure the homeless don't return.