Fayetteville homeless advocacy group says city ordinance a pressure tactic

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Just one day after speaking out against a proposed ordinance that would ban the homeless from sleeping on public streets, a local homeless advocacy group said the city told them they needed a permit to operate.

City officials said the timing is coincidental, Seth's Wish, however, said it doesn't believe that's the case.

The organizations Executive Director, Lindsay Wofford said all of this started Monday night when she criticized an ordinance that she said targets the homeless.

By Tuesday morning, Wofford learned that she and her team might be on the streets too.

"When we opened, we got a visit from code enforcement from the city, asking about the work we've done. He let me know after we spoke out at Monday night's meeting he got a call from the city manager asking that he come check up on our work," said Wofford.

ABC11 asked for an interview with the city manager, Doug Hewitt. Instead city representatives sent an email explaining what happened.

"We initially saw photos on Seth's Wish public Facebook page that showcased the demolition and construction process of their building. From what we observed in some of the many detailed photos they posted, it served as a reminder to check to see if the proper permits had been pulled," Hewitt said.

Seth's Wish community center has been on Cool Springs Street for years and said they didn't have a permit, never did and was never told they needed one.

The city went on to explain to ABC11 that their ordering of a code inspector's visit was not connected to the meeting.

"This verification for permits is not punitive in nature. We are concerned for the health, welfare and safety of the future occupants of the building. There is no connection between the two events; we saw the demolition photographs on Seth's Wish Facebook page and started the request-for-inspection process well prior to the start of Monday night's council meeting. The inspection then occurred Tuesday morning," said Hewitt.

Though the city said the permit verification isn't punitive, Seth's Wish told ABC11 that it certainly is pressure.

The city and Seth's Wish will sit down later in the week to discuss how to mitigate the issues. The city sent the following statement regarding their commitment to Fayetteville's homeless population

"The City has been working to help the homeless for years -- well before many of the well-meaning organizations across the city came into existence; we've previously assigned a police officer to work with the homeless as part of the community resource unit, we own the building in which True Vine Ministries operates, and we are requesting $4 million in funds to help build a homeless day center, to name just a few things we've done to help those in need."
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