GASTONIA, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — People living on the property of Faith, Hope, and Love Ministries in Gastonia are taking their belongings off the property.
“It’s just a little overwhelming having to move everything at such short notice,” said one man who didn’t want to be identified but said he has been staying on the property for about a year. “Hopefully this is for the better for everything and we’ll have a good outcome after it all.”
The church made the decision to break up the homeless encampment a day after a deadly shooting on August 20. The church is already facing city code violations and even during one interview, Pastor Moses Colbert called for the police due to a fight.
“The city said the place is not safe and it’s not safe,” adds Colbert. “But it is the best that we could do. We begged them and we asked them to partner with us and help us.”
Gastonia city leaders learned about the notice to vacate five days ago. The city has a homeless coordinator working with police officers and the coordinator helped put resources together for people leaving the church property.
“Our goal is to provide safe housing,” said Adrian Miller, assistant city manager for the city of Gastonia. “A lot of the residents here have a variety of needs, so we have domestic violence intervention, we have crisis intervention, we have counseling, we have drug detox.”
City leaders are unsure of how many people will actually get help, but it is help Moses Colbert feels the residents should have received a long time ago.
Both parties are worried about where some are going to live, and if it will cause an increased problem in the downtown area.
“Well, my biggest fear is the elderly and the most vulnerable population that is in Gastonia,” said Colbert. “They’re going to get preyed on. They’re going to be the first ones to feel the pinch. Then I fear for businesses uptown, because these people are going to have to go somewhere and they are going to be all over the town all over again dirtying up stuff, dragging trash, doing what people do that is homeless.”
“We’re concerned that people don’t have a safe place to live,” added Miller. “So that is why we want to provide a safe place to live because if they are out on the street, it’s not good for them, it’s not good for anyone else.”
Some sat with belongings across the street from the church. They say they have no place to go which makes Moses Colbert worry about the close to 100 people trying to find a place to live on the streets of Gastonia.
“I’m heartbroken, I’m saddened,” added Colbert. “I have to look in their faces and say, it’s like we are failing them. Like the system is failing them, like the church is failing them. We’re not a failure, but we’ve done everything we can do.”
The church will continue to provide a place to shower and serve food to those without a home.