Activists call for action on homelessness after unofficial shelter shuttered

North Charleston - Local advocates are speaking up Thursday, demanding leaders help Lowcountry homeless after an unofficial shelter was shuttered by N. Charleston officials.

According to City of North Charleston officials, homeowner Cyrus Kamini was housing individuals on his property at Carnes Ave. without a proper business license.

Officials cited Kamini with tickets for "no permits" and an "unsafe dwelling."

City officials said violations ranged from an unpermitted fence to a gas leak.

According to officials, multiple extension cords were running electricity from the main house's power to outdoor units.

North Charleston officials said it was an unsafe solution for area homelessness.

"I'm in trouble for picking up homeless people and bringing them home." Kamini said at a press conference Thursday, adding he himself has been homeless before.

Kamini said he routinely has around 11 to 15 homeless individuals staying at his property and was trying to help out those in need.

"I specialize in picking up people on the side of the road," Kamini said.

He said he didn't blame regulators for doing their job.

"I'm not at all upset with them in any way," Kamini said, adding his fines are around $5,000, "They do what they have to do…to make sure people are safe, and that's fine. We're ready for compliance, but I don't know how we're going to comply. We don't have the funds, the money, the resources."

Kamini said some individuals stay on site for free, while others pay a scaled rent between $400 and $500 dollars.

North Charleston police said the department's received approximately 30 calls to the property since May ranging from theft to domestic disturbances.

Kamini said former tenants have struggled with addictions and other issues.

Lawyer and activist William Hamilton said the housing situation at Carnes Ave. may not have met legal standards, but it's an alternative to people being stuck on the street.

"It's hard to remember people froze to death in tents and under bridges in Charleston last winter," Hamilton said. "You don't see the homeless in Charleston anymore because they have been run off, they've been told to hide. And that's what they were doing here. They were hiding."

"Sometimes when you're picking somebody up, and they're sleeping on the streets, sleeping in your car is a better alternative," Kamini said. "Sleeping in the back of your pickup is a better alternative, sleeping on my couch is a better alternative."

Officials confirm a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21.

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