BeLoved Asheville campaign against camp clearing wins statewide change

Press release from BeLoved Asheville: 

BeLoved Asheville has been building community with people who are experiencing homelessness for 12 years.  We have been advocating since Monday, Feb. 1st  since visiting the Lexington Bridge encampment when we discovered the camp had been cleared by NCDOT in the presence of the Asheville Police Department. We were there to take vital resources to our people living on the streets prior to the coldest night of the year thus far.

We are declaring our first victory in our campaign to stop camp clearings and to create humane policies for the people in our state who are experiencing homeless.

The Secretary of Transportation has sent a notice to Divisions that they will follow CDC guidance and not clear camps during a pandemic. (Please see attached public notice).

“We welcome this as a first step in the right direction in moving away from cruel clearings and sweeps and toward a just and humane approach to those struggling the most in cities and towns across this state. We appreciate the countless people who acted to protect the residents of our state experiencing homelessness who wrote and called the Secretary of Transportation’s office to speak out.   We will continue to work at the local and state level for more policy changes and an ever deeper commitment to care for the most vulnerable in our communities.”–Amy Cantrell, BeLoved Asheville Co-Director

Message from Ronald L. Keeter Jr., NCDOT chief engineer, to all division engineers: 

Division Engineers,

With COVID-19 and an increase in the population of people experiencing homelessness we have seen an increase in people camping on and along our right of ways.

We want to work closely with all of our partners to ensure the safety of people who are experiencing homelessness as well as the driving public.

The Secretary shared the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) Interim Guidance on Unsheltered Homelessness and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for Homeless Service Providers and Local Officials with NCDOT leadership and directed us to implement these practices.  Below is a link to these guidelines.

We have been directed not to take action related to people experiencing homelessness located in the right of way or under roadways unless and until It has been determined there is an immediate safety risk to the public.
If there is an immediate safety risk, NCDOT will work with local officials and partner organizations to collaboratively develop a plan that follows CDC guidelines and protects everyone involved.

We are reaching out to other state DOTs to learn best safety practices.  Several divisions are working with cities and towns and other partners to develop an effective plan.  Please share those plans with this office so that we can make sure other Divisions can benefit from your ideas and we maintain consistency.  Also, prior to taking any action on this issue, please coordinate with this office so that everyone is aware of the department’s efforts.  I appreciate everything that each of you do for this Department and North Carolina.

Take Care,

Ronald L. Keeter, Jr., PE

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