Wilmington City Council approves designation of historic landmark, pilot program to aid the homeless and amendment to panhandling in city code

Wilmington City Council approves designation of historic landmark, pilot program to aid the homeless and amendment to panhandling in city code
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:09 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Wilmington City Council met on September 20 night to discuss a pilot program between the city and New Hanover County to help the homeless, the home of a tennis great and civil rights activist becoming a historic landmark and an amendment to city code on street solicitation.

“Getting Home” Street Outreach Program to aid homeless by pairing social workers and police officers

The City of Wilmington voted unanimously to enter an interlocal agreement with New Hanover County to start “Getting Home” Street Outreach Program, which will be staffed by social workers with the NHC Health and Human Services Department and officers with the Wilmington Police Department.

The county and city plan to hire four social workers and a supervisor with $460,563 of funding for the first 9 months and $1.2 million of funding through the end of 2024 from American Rescue Plan.

The program is scheduled to start on October 1 and to be at full staffing by November, and the program is scheduled to run to the end of 2024.

Dr. Hubert Eaton House, training ground to tennis greats and home to civil rights activist, becomes historic landmark

The Dr. Hubert Eaton House at 1406 Orange Street and 213 S 14th Street was voted unanimously to be designated as a historic landmark.

The property was given a placard from the Historic Wilmington Foundation in December of 2020 and now the city’s Historic Preservation Committee has recommended the designation.

Dr. Hubert Eaton was the first African American to be a resident physician at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and also the first African American to win the North Carolina Interscholastic Tennis Championship in 1932 at 15 years old. His years of fighting to integrate sports, healthcare and education led to to the desegregation of New Hanover County Schools, the Municipal Golf Course of Wilmington, the New Hanover County Library and the James Walker Memorial Hospital.

Amendment to city code over street solicitation

City council voted unanimously amend city code over panhandling and solicitation in order bring the ordinances in line with rulings from the Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Previously, the city had attempted to regulate panhandling and solicitation under of the North Carolina General Statutes. According to city documents, “the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) have granted to cities the authority to prohibit, regulate, or abate acts, omissions, or conditions detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of its citizens (see sec.160A-174) - and specifically to prohibit or regulate begging (see sec.160A-179).”

North Carolina and Federal courts have ruled against these sorts of regulations, issuing multiple rulings that panhandling and solicitation of charitable contributions are forms of protected speech under the First Amendment and that public streets and medians are traditional public forums.