‘We ain’t got nowhere to go:’ Community reacts to ordinance banning sleeping on New Hanover County property

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In a four-to-one vote on Monday, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners banned sleeping on county property from 10 pm to 7 am.

This comes after the commissioners heard a presentation on January 23 about criminal activity, littering, and using outdoor and parking deck areas as restrooms. Commissioners voted on the ordinance last month following the presentation. It also resulted in a four-to-one vote, with Jonathan Barfield being the only dissenting vote. However, because it was the adoption of an ordinance without a public hearing, the vote had to be unanimous to forgo the second reading.

The second reading occurred during Monday’s meeting where commissioners voted on the ordinance without discussion. Jonathan Barfield was once again the only dissenting vote.

Following the decision, people like Jamie Thompson were at a parking deck downtown working to connect the homeless with resources. Thompson is a pastor at Anchor United Methodist Church. She is one of the people who helps open the Warming Shelter when temperatures drop below freezing for an extended period of time.

“Everything is complicated and I think everybody understands that and acknowledges that, but the first rule is to do no harm,” Thompson said. “That’s the first rule that we live by and the second rule is to do good. The bottom line is the ordinance is going to do harm.”

While WWAY was at the deck, one woman was brought to tears as she asked where she should go to sleep on Monday night.

“Do we have the will to address it? To confront it and to find humane solutions? I think that’s lacking more than anything. We’re looking for quick and easy answers. We’re looking to shove people away, hide people away and that’s a really really short-term solution,” Thompson said.

While the ordinance does not specifically mention homeless people, it does say parking decks and parking lots are for parking and associated activities only. The parking deck at Third and Grace Streets downtown is where you can typically find homeless people. Willie Thames is one of those people who is struggling with homelessness.

“It’s cold and we have no place to stay and rent is too high. They say you’ve got to have two times of the rent. I make money, I just don’t have two times the rent,” Thames said.

Life without a place to call home is difficult. Thames says the commissioners’ decision leaves people like him with even more uncertainty.

“It’s bad because we ain’t got nowhere to go. If they have a place to go, we’ll go. If rent was cheap, I would be gone. I wouldn’t sleep outside,” he said.

In addition to preventing sleeping, the ordinance also says personal belongings left on county property can be thrown away.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, New Hanover, Top Stories