Business, homeless community discuss growing issue


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Homelessness is an issue almost every city in America has to deal with and downtown Wilmington is no different.

A recent Facebook post on a public community watch page is drawing some attention and it’s quite disturbing.

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Monday morning, someone anonymously posted four photos including one of defecation outdoors, one public sighting of urine, a man openly drinking from a brown bag and a broken toilet.

How can we work together to solve this problem?

“We are worried about our downtown and the cleanliness of downtown,” Ray Baca, a downtown Wilmington business owner, said.

Baca commented on the post: “We need to take control of this downtown or we are going to lose whatever charm we might have.”

He says he’s been in business downtown just off Water Street since 2000, but is not a fan of the scene he’s seen lately.

“This was last Friday night around 11 o’clock and I’m going to guess there were about 12 people sleeping in sleeping bags and just stuff all over the place,” Baca said.

Kevin Lucas has been homeless since December and says Baca’s wish to move these people is easier said than done.

“I mean it’s just not logical for them to walk 10 miles to the intake place and then they don’t have a bed anyway and now they have to walk all the way back where there stuff,” Lucas said.

“People that are homeless have mental illnesses,” Lucas said. “They just don’t realize what they’re doing because they don’t have the right help. They’re not dangerous people. They’re just trying to live.”

Baca says the homeless crowd is drawing people away from his business.

“Kinda seem like it’s getting more aggressive with people coming downtown,” Baca said. “I don’t know if it’s the fact that they’re allowing them to loiter in the space that we’re talking about.”

David Poppe works downtown like Baca now, but it wasn’t too long ago that he was homeless. He says he can understand why many flock to the waterfront.

“Coming to the water …there are restrooms there and people actually do bring food there,” Poppe said.

Poppe says lately the public restroom on Water Street has been closed. The city confirms contractors should fix it by Tuesday, but this could be contributing to the outdoor use of the restroom. Either way, Ed Wolverton with Wilmington Downtown, Inc. says his crews are on it.

“We run an ambassador program that runs 7 days a week and provides additional safety and additional cleaning services throughout our downtown central business district,” Wolverton said.

Lucas says these homeless people need the city’s help.

“Happiness isn’t just money, but happiness for some of these people will be having a place to lay their head and not have to worry about if they’re going to sleep in the rain,” Lucas said.

Wolverton is asking anyone who spots anything that needs to be cleaned immediately to report it here.