Concerns rise over growing homeless encampment next to I-40 in Raleigh

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Thursday, January 19, 2023
Concerns rise over growing homeless encampment in Raleigh
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A makeshift homeless shelter in Raleigh is raising concerns for business owners in the area.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A makeshift homeless shelter growing on South Saunders Street is raising concerns for business owners in the area.

It's a tent city by the Interstate 40 exit ramp.

A Raleigh business owner emailed ABC11 because he was concerned not only about the people in there but also the image it is conveying for the city.

"I'm trying to get this before it takes a foothold in our city because I judge our city on how well it takes care of our most vulnerable," said business owner Brian.

The homeless crisis is rising by the minute in Wake County. Fifteen hundred people were counted as homeless in the most recent total, which is up 70% compared to this time last year.

The encampment off South Sanders is at least one of 15 encampments that officials know about in Wake County, and has been there for four years if not more.

"It's so much more than what we're seeing on the streets," said Kim Crawford, executive director of the Raleigh Wake to End Homelessness. "What about everybody else that we're not seeing?"

Shelters are down 200 beds since COVID hit and they never got those back. Right now there's a three week wait to get in.

"Where are they supposed to go? Where are they supposed to go, and it's January so there are no leaves on the trees so we see it," Crawford said.

Crawford believes Raleigh and its leaders are ahead of the curve when it comes to solving the crisis. While they don't have enough shelter beds, several churches have also stepped up when it drops below a certain temperature.

She also said the focus needs to be on a livable wage and affordable housing.

"We know our system is an overflowing bathtub, but how do we prevent them from going down the drain?" Crawford said.

Brandon Conine has been in the tent city off I-40 for four years.

"I've had people ride by me, laugh at people and take pictures," he said. "I just try and ignore the best I can, it's just a mental thing."

We met Brandon as he was walking unsteadily to the store. He's still waiting on an MRI for his knee.

"I moved here, met my wife and we got married and we were together 8 years, and I picked up drinking heavily. I was an alcoholic," he said. "That was my mistake which of course brought me to this situation."