The Interstate 77 toll lane project has encroached on a homeless camp near uptown, leaving personal belongings exposed.
“I’m sad, I’ve gone into these camps,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, who visited what was left of the camp. “This is their home. It’s bad enough that it’s on the side of the road. But it’s still their private little world.”
It was unclear how many people used the camp was near the juncture of Interstate 277 and I-77. A video taken by a WSOC-TV reporter showed backpacks, sleeping bags, tents and even canned goods.
DOT spokesman Robert Broome said “No Trespassing” signs had been posted last October, and DOT officials had notified the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“NCDOT’s number one priority is the safety of the public, and that includes the homeless,” Broome said. “In these situations, our maintenance staff makes every effort to ensure that advance notice is provided when an area must be cleared. We work with law enforcement to ensure that these persons get the assistance they need for shelter and support.”
I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Cintra, is building the 26-mile toll project between Charlotte and Mooresville. Construction recently began on the Charlotte end.
A Mobility Partners spokeswoman referred questions to the N.C. transportation department.
Liz Clasen-Kelly, executive director of the Men’s Shelter, said many of the city’s 200 or so homeless people live in similar camps.
“People sometimes live in camps for months or years,” she said. “(They) understand it to be their home. When we have to leave our home it can be very unsettling and traumatic. At the same time most camps are on property owned by other people, and we’re a growing community.
“Homeless people deserve respect,” she said. “Seems like NCDOT knew they were there and it would not have taken much effort to ask the county for help to relocate them before the project began. Instead they chose a bulldozer. People are not disposable.”