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Police say homeless camps on rise

HIGH POINT — High Point police have counted more than 50 sites in the city that they have dubbed homeless camps.

Chief Travis Stroud recently told the City Council Public Safety Committee that officers found around 54 wooded areas or vacant lots being used as camps at various times since the beginning of 2021.

“We started noticing a serious uptick in our homeless population and the crime that was associated with a lot of these individuals and where they were staying,” Stroud said. “So we started actively tracking our homeless population and the camps that were popping up throughout the city.”

Most of the sites are along the Main Street corridor near big-box retailers and the U.S. 29/Business 85 interchange at S. Main Street, he said.

“Not all of them are active at all times. They will be pretty transient,” Stroud said. “We’ll go clean them out or tell them they’ve got to leave, and they just go somewhere else.”

The most common police calls associated with homeless camps include aggressive panhandling, trespassing, public disturbances and illegal drugs.

“Homelessness is not a crime. So that is not the issue. It’s what people bring with it,” he said.

While a lot of the camps in High Point are hidden, the chief warned that the problem is going to get worse, and he brought up the example of West Coast cities where homelessness is much more prevalent.

“That happens to us, you can mark ‘livable’ off the little saying there, because it won’t be like that,” he said, referring to the city’s mission statement displayed in council chambers. “That is not where we can be as a city.”

Stroud said police are doing their part to address homelessness by enforcing the law and working to prevent crime. He did not ask the council for any new policy, ordinance or expenditure.

“I think there’s going to have to be a lot of people who step up to the table who can provide resources that we cannot,” he said. “This is not one of the things we can solve as a police department.”

Interim Community Development and Housing Director Nena Wilson told the committee that city officials have been working with their counterparts in Greensboro and Guilford County on long-term solutions to homelessness.

One idea being explored is working with developers to convert motels to permanent housing with support services for the homeless.

In addition, the county set aside $8 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funds that could go to individual agencies addressing homelessness or to new strategies.

Also in High Point, Open Door Ministries is working on a day center project and is proposing to use temporary pallet homes — small, spartan sleeping cabins — for winter shelters for the homeless.


News
Early voting off to brisk pace

TRIAD — Early voting is off to a brisk pace across North Carolina and local counties this presidential midterm election, reflecting a trend nationwide.

Political science professor Chris Cooper said what stands out to him is that early voting patterns this fall in North Carolina and the High Point area appear to reflect the trends seen in early voting in 2018, the last midterm.

Cooper, a political science faculty member at Western Carolina University who specializes in voting pattern analysis, told The High Point Enterprise that after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this past June overturning Roe v. Wade, some political observers thought that voting patterns would change substantially, but so far that hasn’t been the case here.

“The gender numbers are about the same,” Cooper said.

Some political observers also projected major shifts in party affiliation in voter turnout because of partisan impact from President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

“But there aren’t radically different partisan numbers so far (in North Carolina) either,” the professor said. “To me it’s a story of stability more than anything else.”

Early voting, known formally as in-person one-stop absentee voting, continues through Nov. 5 leading up to Election Day Nov. 8. Early voting, which began Oct. 20, is marking its 22nd year as a practice in North Carolina elections.

Through Wednesday statewide, 796,000 voters cast early votes either in person or by mail while 847,000 did so at the same point in the last midterm. However, in-person early voting began one day earlier four years ago, so the 2018 number includes one more day of voting than this year’s number.

Locally, in Guilford County, 37,000 voters have cast ballots so far, compared to 40,000 at this point four years ago. In Davidson County 11,600 voters have cast ballots so far, compared to 11,900 in 2018. In Randolph County 10,500 voters have cast ballots, while 12,500 had four years ago.


News
Book about Market, downtown gets mixed response

HIGH POINT — John Joe Schlichtman lived in High Point for only about three years, but he has been studying the city’s downtown and the High Point Market for 20 years, and in many ways he thinks of the city like a second home.

It shows in the energy he exudes when he talks about the book that resulted from his research, “Showroom City,” and about the city’s downtown revitalization efforts — efforts that until recent years he didn’t believe would ever materialize. The issue matters to him.

“I think there is unprecedented reason for hope today versus the last 40 years” that a significant part of downtown will become a place that people who live here year-round will feel belongs to them, he said.

But Schlichtman, an associate professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago, is quick to say that he doesn’t live here, and whatever happens downtown should progress according to what local residents want.

“Showroom City” is part local history, part personal journal and part urban planning analysis and critique, telling the story of how furniture showrooms came to take over so much of downtown — now 12 million square feet of space. The book came out in June.

Schlichtman has been in High Point this week and spoke about his book in appearances at the High Point Public Library and Sunrise Books. He also spoke to students at UNC Greensboro and UNC Chapel Hill.

He said reaction to the book among High Point residents has been mixed.

“One response is some people don’t believe I studied the city” and want to fill him in, he said.

Some people view the book as a positive contribution that will help spur continued revitalization efforts, he said.

And some look at it cynically, feeling they already have been burned too many times believing that events were moving forward in a positive way, only to see nothing develop.

If the book helps spur discussion of the issues, even if people think his view on them is incorrect, he would view that as a good outcome, he said.


News
Former state legislator Bingham dies
  • Updated

Stan Bingham

DAVIDSON COUNTY — Retired Republican state senator Stan Bingham, a plain-speaking politician who spent 16 years in the N.C. General Assembly and had a long career in Davidson County politics, died at the age of 76.

Bingham, who served four years on the Davidson County Board of Commissioners prior to joining the legislature, first was elected to the Senate in 2000 and served through his retirement from the seat in 2016. Friends tell The High Point Enterprise that he died overnight Wednesday or early Thursday morning at his home in Denton in the southern part of the county.

Gov. Roy Cooper praised Bingham for his long career of service.

“Senator Bingham was a hard-working and thoughtful public servant who diligently represented the people of his district in addition to all of his other community efforts to improve the lives of others,” Cooper said in a statement to The Enterprise.

Cooper ordered all U.S. and North Carolina flags at state facilities to half-staff until sunset Friday to honor Bingham.

Sen. Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, and Rep. Sam Watford, R-Davidson, attended an event with Bingham Wednesday night. Jarvis said he was stunned when he found out Thursday that Bingham had died.

“He was joking and talking Wednesday night, the Stan Bingham that everyone knew and liked,” said Jarvis, who serves in the Senate seat that Bingham held previously.

Jarvis said that Bingham was devoted to serving constituents and respected by legislators on both sides of the aisle at the State Legislative Building in Raleigh.

Jarvis, who had been friends with Bingham for more than 10 years, said Bingham let people know clearly where he stood on issues.

“If he felt very passionate about an issue, he didn’t have a problem standing up for it,” Jarvis said. “He had a soft heart and would take the time and do anything for anybody if they were in need.”

Watford, who was friends with Bingham for 40 years, said Bingham was an accomplished businessman in addition to an effective politician.

“Just about anything positive you could say about anybody you could say about Stan Bingham,” Watford said. “He was always a help to me politically and socially.”

Bingham prided himself on being a conservative politician but reached out to form bridges with Democrats.

When Bingham first was elected to the Senate, Democrats controlled the chamber. Bingham developed a friendship with now-retired Democratic senator Ellie Kinnaird, one of the most liberal state senators at the time from Carrboro near Chapel Hill.

Bingham told The Enterprise in an interview 15 years ago that he and Kinnaird disagreed on many issues but worked together on legislation where they had common ground. Kinnaird also helped Bingham with local legislation for Davidson County and his Senate district.


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