City council member suggests misdemeanors for giving directly to the homeless

City council member suggests misdemeanors for giving directly to the homeless

The final days of the encampment known as "Tent City" in February 2021. Photo: Travis Dove/Axios

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City council member Tariq Bokhari suggested Monday night that people who give directly to the homeless, instead of to a nonprofit or charitable organization, be faced with a misdemeanor.

The big picture: Charlotte has an affordable housing crisis  — and the situation is especially dire for the lowest income residents.. Efforts to support homeless populations are decentralized. The city, county and local nonprofits haven’t yet found a way to tackle the issue together. [Go deeper]

What he’s saying: “We have a lot of resources to help with this, we have a system to enter in. Somehow the people out there, in large parts, aren’t making it in the system. And I think we need a heavier dose of tough love amongst this community,” Bokhari, a Republican, said as he strategized ways to direct homeless people to the existing resources and non-profits available to help them.

  • He continued: “If people aren’t getting it and they’re still bringing food and money and clothing and resources directly to folks that are out there right now, they’re only making themselves feel good. They’re (ultimately) hurting the folks. Perhaps we explore making that a misdemeanor.”

Bokhari told Axios Charlotte Tuesday he didn’t have anything to add to his comments the night before.

It’s unlikely that a measure like this would ever come to fruition. But local nonprofit leaders were still horrified by the suggestion.

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  • “This speaks to an inhumanity and insensitivity around the most vulnerable of us. We should never criminalize homelessness and the act of giving, service and caring for others,” Jessica-Lefkowitz, founder of the Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition, tells me.
  • “@FinTechInnov8r is a giant embarrassment to the city of Charlotte and someone should relieve this man of representing a city he clearly hates so much,” Carolina Forward, a progressive policy nonprofit, tweeted.

Background: Earlier this year we documented the last 10 days of Tent City, the heavily-populated homeless encampment that put Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis on display for a year during the pandemic.

  • The encampment was cleared in February because of a pest infestation. Residents were offered 90-day hotel stays that were later extended to go through September.

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