Charlotte airport wants police to be able to remove people experiencing homelessness

CHARLOTTE — The aviation director of Charlotte Douglas International Airport says the airport’s legal team is in the process of crafting rules that will allow the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to remove people experiencing homelessness from the airport.

She told Charlotte City Council about the plans in response to a question from Councilman Tariq Bokhari about the uptick in homelessness at the airport. Channel 9 has been looking into the homelessness situation at the airport since January.

Two people currently living inside the airport, Elaina and Frederick, say they prefer living in the airport because it is open 24-7, staffed with security and they have access to bathrooms and power outlets.

“They don’t really like us in here but there is nothing they can really do about it,” Elaina said. “As long as you aren’t causing any problems or harassing anybody, you are pretty much alright.”

Frederick told Channel 9 that Monday was his third night at Charlotte Douglas. Elaina says she has been living at the airport off and on since January.

“We have our own police team here, our own medic team, our own canine dogs,” she said. “There are people coming and going all day long. It is one of the safest places in Charlotte.”

They say as many as 30 people are living there on any given night. They say people mainly sleep and stay in the baggage claim area but there are people spread throughout the whole terminal.

At Charlotte City Council’s meeting Monday night, aviation director Haley Gentry told leaders they experienced an increase in people living at the airport. She blamed more square footage as a result of the lobby expansion.

“We have encountered that there are sometimes where it is challenging for police to remove an individual from our property,” Gentry said. “Safety and security are our No. 1 priority at the airport and we approach with these in mind.”

She says the airport’s legal department is crafting rules that will make it easier for police to remove people.

“If you are not at the airport for business, if you are not there working, if you are not there traveling, there are a number of considerations then you cannot be at the airport,” she said.

Gentry expects the changes by June. Elaina and Frederick say they are fine with that. Elaina says she works multiple jobs as a day laborer and donates plasma. They both say they hope they no longer must live in the airport by then.

“The airport has got to do what they got to do,” Frederick said.

A spokesperson for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport said more information will be gathered and provided to Channel 9. The spokesperson did not respond when asked if Charlotte City Council will have to vote on the changes.

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