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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

NHC Commissioners change course, reject ordinance aimed at removing homeless people from county property

A homeless person sleeping at the parking deck in Downtown Wilmington
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A homeless person sleeping at the parking deck in Downtown Wilmington

On Monday, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners reversed course and rejected an ordinance that would prohibit the homeless from sleeping on all county-owned properties, including the downtown library. Last month, commissioners were in favor of the ordinance, by a four-to-one vote.

Monday’s vote was a second reading, which is often a formality — but when Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who was the lone vote to reject the ordinance last month, stood by his vote, things took a turn. Three other commissioners changed their minds and agreed with Barfield to overturn the ordinance.

Vice-Chair Deb Hays was the lone vote against denying the ordinance. She wanted commissioners to find other solutions to address the problem first, but according to Commissioner Bill Rivenbark there had been little discussion since the first reading.

“If we had done something about this since the last meeting, I'd feel a little bit better about it but we haven’t," he said.

The county library in downtown Wilmington is where the majority of the unsheltered population goes to sleep and congregate. Recently, there has been a lot of disruption and difficulty keeping the area clean.

Hays said putting the ordinance in place would put the homeless in the right direction to receive the help they need if they want it.

“We are not trying to take anything away from anybody and certainly not the homeless population. They are people too – just like all of us. What we're trying to do, what I feel like we're trying to do is get them to the services that they need," she said.

Commissioners left the issue without a resolution, although Commissioner Rob Zapple called on staff and the City of Wilmington to work on options (his motion to table the ordinance for further study failed 3-2).

Ashley Brown is from from Houston, TX. She holds a BA in Mass Communication from Sam Houston State University and an MA in Professional Communication and Digital Media from Texas Southern University. Her love of news, radio, and entertainment led her to the field of journalism. As a creative person, she loves the journalistic challenge of putting stories together. And as a future news reporter, she hopes to tell stories that reach and affect people. In her spare time, she enjoys music, reading, journaling, spending time with friends and family, and trying out new brunch places to eat.