CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Monday, Cumberland County officials vote to pass an ordinance banning homeless campsites from county owned property. The ordinance is similar to one the city of Fayetteville enacted earlier this year, and has been one of the most contested issues of the year.
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners passed the ordinance Monday night. Officials say the goal is to protect people from safety hazards and nuisances in public areas, like the library on Maiden Lane. People experiencing homelessness frequently shelter on the library steps at night.
Commissioners also agreed on partnership with True Vine Ministries to provide White Flag shelter for homeless individuals who can't camp on county property.
Chairwoman Dr. Toni Stewart says she's worried the ordinance could just punish vulnerable people without giving them solutions.
"I don't believe in penalizing those who are homeless and until we have other options for them, more beds for them, I can't see them penalized," Stewart said.
Stewart notes there are few options for homeless shelters in the county, like Manna Church and the Salvation Army. The shelters are frequently at capacity, and the county is still in the process of building its own shelter, a development that might not come until 2024.
"The answer is in beds," Stewart said. "We've got to have beds. We've got to provide them something and then not penalize them because we're not ready."
Sharman Tober once stayed at the city-owned parking lot across the street from county library with her son. She says homeless people like her and the ones who sleep at the library are being targeted without adequate support.
"It's not right. It's not the way we're supposed to be helping our fellow humans, human beings. Especially this holiday season."
Tober argues the county needs to provide the homeless with more immediate support.
"There are ways they can do it if they just put their mind and effort into it. If they were in the same situation, what would they do?"
The ordinance vote comes as the Biden Administration announced a plan to minimize homelessness by 25% by 2025. Cumberland County Commissioners voted five to two on the ordinance when it was first brought to the board last month. However, the ordinance did not pass in November because it then needed a unanimous vote On Monday, the ordinance just needs a majority vote to pass.