9 Investigates: Woman claims she was asked to leave park - WNCN: News, Weather

9 Investigates: Woman claims she was asked to leave park

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - A homeless woman living at the Greenville Community Center alleges she was kicked out of Dream Park for not having children. 

She asked not to be identified and we'll call her “Jan” for the purpose of the story.

On Monday morning, not far from where children play, Jan was sitting beneath a shelter waiting for the bus. She says she was looking for a job.    

“I wasn't loitering,” she told 9 On Your Side. “I was not drinking. I wasn't doing drugs. I was using my computer at a park bench.”

The shelter was the smallest of two in Dream Park.

Park officials have made it clear that the larger one is reserved for families and children playing in the splash point.

However, she says police still asked her to leave.

"They knew they were building it beside a homeless shelter,” she said. “They also know that they are going to revamp the shelter and build a better one. Did they not expect for the people that had nowhere else to go to not sit in the park?"

9 On Your Side took her questions to Greenville Police.

"This is a really important park,” said Chief Hassan Aden. “It's a long time coming and we wanted to establish it as heavily policed."

Ever since the park opened Chief Aden he's taken a proactive approach. Prior to its opening there was a drug problem there.  

Since the park opened, Greenville Police documented 428 instances where they proactively patrolled the area and of those instances 10 cases were filed. Aden says he's instructed his officers to conduct community policing and to "move people along" if they weren't using the park properly.

What about the alleged incident? 

"It may be possible that an officer conveyed a message in that fashion, but that is not what intended for the community,” said Aden. “Folks can go out and enjoy the park as long as they are lawfully using the park."

Shelter director Bob Williams agrees, but he's fighting to make sure his tenant's rights as citizens aren't violated.

"If you build a nice park next to a homeless shelter, I would think that you would think some of these people are going to migrate over here,” said Bob Williams. “They're going to use it and they should be allowed to use it."

Williams says if they had the money, they'd allow his tenants to hang around all day, but since they don't receive federal, state, or local funding, Williams says they close from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

So where can the homeless go?

The shelter gives its tenants bus passes to travel to interviews, the library, doctor appointments and other essential functions. The shelter doesn't encourage people to migrate to the park while they're closed, but loitering is not allowed outside the shelter either. 

Williams says this is to encourage them to do something productive. Chief Aden fully supports the homeless and says his goal is to help them. He and the department already promised to give one of the shelter's rooms a make-over.

Before our story aired, Aden addressed the potential mis-step with his officers. Williams and Greenville's Recreation and Park Director also spoke. We're promised a person will not be asked to leave the park unless they are engaging in unlawful activity.

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