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Squatters, homeless encampments kept Code Enforcement busy in 2023

ASHEBORO — Code Enforcement has been a hot topic during the past year, keeping Chuck Garner extremely busy. 


At the Asheboro City Council meeting on Feb. 8, the code enforcement officer said he did 198 investigations in 2023, finding 173 violations resulting in the removal of 16 dilapidated buildings, often the result of damage caused by squatters, he said.


But the “hot topic” was retiring homeless encampments in the city. Garner said the number grew to 18 just the day before when a camp was removed.


He said attempts are made to discourage new camps from returning by piling brush and logs in camps deep in the woods, or opening the brush up further if they're already in a semi-public space. 


Garner said he is often accompanied by a colleague to talk to the homeless about programs to help lift them from their conditions. But, he said, a very small percentage take her up on receiving assistance.


He showed the council photos of abandoned camps and the heaps of garbage and refuse left behind. City workers with heavy equipment remove all the trash, including hypodermic needles left on the ground.


"This has been a hot topic, and I've spoken in different places,” Garner said. “It's what's going on in the background. What people see when they ride by one day, they know there's a camp. The next day, there's a bulldozer. 


“What they don't know is that two months prior, I was in there every day. I still went in talking to them, encouraging, saying that this is not a sustainable lifestyle."