Woodfin provided a better life for Tommy.

Folks in Permanent Supportive Housing are highly vulnerable individuals with physical and mental disabilities, and complex housing barriers. Most would not survive if left living on the streets. Tommy who lived in the Woodfin, Homeward Bound’s Permanent support Housing residence is a good example.

Tommy was homeless for 25 years before he came to Homeward Bound. He was a coal miner for decades in West Virginia and as a result of the awful conditions, he developed PTSD. He had chronic health issues from the coal mines and self-medicated with alcohol. His drinking led to losing his job, and ultimately, he lost his family. He traveled around from city to city working odd jobs. He got arrested for DUI and when he got out of jail he couldn’t find work, and started living on the streets.

In 2015, Homeward Bound moved him into an apartment. He was evicted from there because he couldn’t keep his apartment clean and had issues with the landlord. In 2017, we moved him into the Woodfin.

At that point he as 60 years old, had many serious health issues including end stage liver cancer, and alcohol and substance use disorders. If left living on the streets Tommy would have passed away.

But, through the Woodfin, Tommy was not only provided a home and a community, he was also connected to RHA for mental health treatment, Dale Fell and Mission Care Partners for medical treatment, and he’s had a really decent life for four years. 

Sadly, Tommy is now in a nursing home, and will most likely remain there. 

“I’m just now getting out into the world again.”

Tara is 33 and for years was in a very violent relationship with a man who was associated with an infamous biker gang. The violence continually increased and she finally managed to escape in 2012 and go into hiding. It took her four years before she could use her real name. 

During this time, Tara stayed on and off with friends, but mostly camped in the woods.

Tara came here in 2016 with the clothes on her back. She wanted a fresh start and had heard about “quirky” Asheville. She felt like she would fit in, so she took a chance and hitchhiked here. She arrived in Asheville with only the clothes on her back.

Tara felt triggered by the chaos at shelters where she stayed, so she made the choice to camp in the woods, where she felt she had more control over her environment, and was less traumatized. 

Tara was able to find housing on her own but was having difficulties. Homeward Bound Case Manager Jerry was at Deaverview one day in January of 2020, visiting a client, and came across Tara in the parking lot – – she was distressed about several unwanted guests at her apartment and was asking for help. Jerry connected Tara with case manager Phyllis Taylor who works with survivors of domestic violence who have experienced homelessness.

Tara has been successfully housed for a year. Living in the safety and security of a home enabled Tara to begin counseling and she is currently taking medication to ease symptoms of PTSD and the effects of long-term trauma. She has applied for disability and is following through with appointments and Tara has recently begun a new relationship. She feels she can trust people again.

Tara said, “I am just now beginning to get out into the world again and remember that I am a valuable, worthy human being and not disposable garbage.” 

Tara’s goal is to move closer to her mother and get a job in sales. Tara would like to be able to give back to the community with support by way of supplying camping gear and essentials for the homeless.

Tara wants people to understand that people are homeless because something happened to them, and they need help to get out (of the situation).

 She said, “I just want to thank Homeward Bound for supporting me and believing in me, and giving me a platform to start over. It’s unprecedented and I’m forever grateful.”

A home and hope for Ronnie after years on the streets.

Ronnie spent most of his childhood in an orphanage in Atlanta. His father was an alcoholic and never home and his mother suffered from mental illness. He was placed in a children’s home when he was nine. 

At 18, Ronnie walked out of the children’s home with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had no money, no family and nowhere to go so he lived in the woods for a year. Ronnie is not the kind of person who gives up. He claims to not have much in the way of book smarts but plenty of street smarts and he eventually got a full-time job as a maintenance man for a motel. 

Life was good. For ten years he had a respectable job, a home, a wife and two kids and a truck, until one day he had an accident. Ronnie took on a side job painting a couple’s home and was replacing the shutters on the house when he fell 40 feet down the ladder and broke his heel bone and suffered some other injuries. With no health insurance, Ronnie could not have the surgery he so badly needed. He couldn’t walk for three years and lost everything. He tried to get disability income but was continually denied. For 20 years he lived in and out of shelters and on the streets.

Four years ago he walked into AHOPE and was assigned to Homeward Bound’s housing team. He was placed in public housing, where he lived for two years. He finally got his disability benefits and moved into an apartment with disability access features including walk-in showers, wider doorways, lower cabinets, and extra floor space. His apartment in a very safe neighborhood, with sidewalks and easy access to grocery shopping. 

Amanda, Ronnie’s case manager said, “Ronnie loves his new home. Despite his disabilities and using a walker, Ronnie loves to walk. He walks at least two miles every day. Ronnie has a heart of gold. After so many struggles in his life, he continues to have a great attitude and believes in being good to everyone.” 

Ronnie’s doctors think that he will be in a wheel chair by the end of the year, but Ronnie said that he will continue fighting no matter what comes his way.

Homeward Bound provided “divine intervention”.

 In 2016, a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which led to numerous and extended hospital visits, caused Paul to lose his job. Not long after losing employment, and stuck with a high number of medical bills he could not pay, Paul began sleeping in his car –  the weeks turned into months, and then years. 

During his time outdoors, Paul made several attempts to apply for housing on his own. He filled out applications with the City of Asheville for Section 8 housing, but with extremely long waiting lists, nothing came through. 

“Living in your car is hard,” Paul says. “If you want to be safe, you have to park where your car is visible to the public. Once I was parked on Leicester Highway and two guys tried to steal my car. I had to fight them to protect my car and myself. Violence isn’t good, but living on the street, it’s sometimes necessary. Also, in sleeping in your car, you get leg cramps, and you use up all your gas moving from place to place to avoid getting caught by the police. The ADP is good at their job. They find you fast.” 

Paul preferred to park his car in an Ingles parking lot where the manager turned a blind eye to his presence. 

“I was so appreciative of the manager who let me stay there that I would go around the parking lot and pick up trash for him. I wanted him to know I was grateful. There was also a lady who worked in the Ingles deli who would bring me a hot meal every day,” he says. “One day she found me in my car sick with pneumonia. She knocked on my window and when I didn’t answer, she called 911. She saved my life.”

Living unhoused made both Paul’s health condition and his ability to secure medication even more difficult. “I used alcohol to feel better,” he admits. It was a temporary fix that often made him feel worse later on. 

Then COVID hit. 

“During COVID I was afraid for my life. I couldn’t go to any of the food pantries because I didn’t want to be around too many people. There weren’t enough boundaries. With my health problems, I couldn’t get sick, I just wouldn’t survive.” 

It wasn’t until the creation of Homeward Bound’s Civilian Rapid Rehousing program that Paul was finally connected to his Homeward Bound case manager Flint. 

“We found a house really fast,” Paul says. “And it was the exact house I wanted. I couldn’t believe it. It was like divine intervention – no question about that.”  

Paul has been housed less than a month and already his health has improved. 

“It doesn’t make that sound when I breathe anymore. I’m getting better because I can take care of myself. I can cook my own food, and I sleep better. I’m not scared all the time.”

Flint and Paul will continue to work together to make sure Paul’s transition to his new home is successful. Flint will help Paul monitor his health, his medication, and his bills for up to nine months until Paul is able to live without support. 

“If I’m gonna die, I want to die in my own bed.”

Mae (called ‘Mama Mae’ by friends) experienced homelessness in both Tennessee and North Carolina, but her experience with Homeward Bound is the best she’s had. She recalls feeling like she was treated as less than human when she tried to get help in Tennessee. 

Mae said, “It’s very hard to live on the street. I’m a borderline diabetic– I could die out there. If I’m gonna die, I wanna die in my own bed.”

She had been in the Room in the Inn program and then when the pandemic hit she moved over to the Red Roof Inn and stayed there for four months. She kept to herself and mostly stayed in her room. She and her case manager, Flint, submitted applications to five or six different places before she got her current apartment.

Mae hopes she never has to move again because her new place feels like home to her. She’s enjoying having a place for all of her things and is hoping to purchase items for donation that will benefit other folks who have or are experiencing homelessness. Mae’s beloved dog, Bella, died shortly before she entered housing and she is hoping to get a new dog soon with the help of her case manager, Flint. 

“It’s not easy to be in a good mood when you’re homeless.”

Laura is a survivor of domestic violence. She was in a very abusive relationship which she tried leaving many times. Each time she left, her husband’s family would convince her to go back. She became so disappointed in herself. She finally left for good when he began to abuse her son.

Laura and her son, who was then 13 at the time, moved to Asheville to be with her sister. When she arrived Laura discovered that her sister had died. She stayed in shelters and after a few months, she heard about Homeward Bound, went to AHOPE and got on the list for housing. 

While waiting for housing, Laura moved in and out of shelters, she joined the Room in the Inn program and moved from church to church. She is diabetic and found it tough to get the right food. It was very loud and Laura had difficulty sleeping. She became depressed.

“It’s not easy to be in a good mood when you’re homeless.” The emotional support she received from case manager Will and other Homeward Bound staff has been so important. 

After four years of moving around, Homeward Bound finally moved Laura into her own home. She has been here for 12 years but would like to move someplace nicer. 

“I’ve had been looking for over a year but many landlords don’t want to take section 8 vouchers.”

Laura finally found a home and moved into a little cottage that she loves. She is ready to graduate from Homeward Bound’s Permanent Supportive Housing program.

“Being in a permanent home makes me feel safe and happy.” said Laura, “Having a roof over my head, and not sharing a room gives me a sense of freedom.”

Laura spends her time doing a lot of inspirational reading. She feels it’s important to be grateful. She is no longer depressed and really appreciates life.