ASHEBORO – Bush-hauling and written agreements between property owners and police are part of Asheboro's effort to remove homeless encampments.
That’s what Asheboro Master Police Lieutenant Eddie Howell and Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Garner told the Asheboro City Council at its Oct. 5 meeting. They said they have recently cleared 18 camps.
Howell said the city is updating signs around Bicentennial Park and enforcing curfew hours. They also created a no-trespassing form that property owners can sign, giving police permission to go on to the property and ban individuals who are reported as trespassing.
Council member Eddie Burks asked how property owners can request a permission form. Howell said they can come directly to him. The form will be on file for a year, and it does not prevent property owners from going to court on their own.
Code enforcement has been removing brush in wood areas where camps were cleared. This includes the area behind Firehouse Sub and Pizza Inn just off East Dixie Drive.
Howell said most of the camps have been along Dixie Drive; they're focusing enforcement on that area and around Bicentennial Park. He said some arrests were made, and other people listened to warnings to leave.
Garner said he makes the effort to talk to the people living in camps. He gives them deadlines so they may leave before the city clears the camp.
"This is not a heartless endeavor,” he said. “I make sure they know there are resources accessible. I've only had four take me up on the offer."
Mayor David Smith said, "Chuck spends most of the day every day in these homeless camps. He's doing a great job."
Smith said he had a property owner come to him to report that people were living on his land and stealing, and that he was afraid they would retaliate if he took action. He said, "We've got customers in our stores that are afraid to come out of their car in the evening. We're losing some of our business. They say they noticed a real downturn in walk-in traffic."
Council member Bill McCaskill asked about recent arrests for panhandling. Howell said arrests are made when the panhandling is deemed "aggressive," as when people approach cars or impede the normal flow of traffic.