Asheville-Buncombe 2020 Point-in-Time count completed

As part of the nationwide 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) count, the Asheville-Buncombe County Homeless Initiative has completed its report of the community’s one-night count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The final report was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) on May 15.

Asheville’s count was conducted in the afternoon and evening of Jan. 29, 2020. More than two dozen volunteers from Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina and the Charles George VA Medical Center Homeless Services Team participated in the street count. Area shelters, service providers, and housing programs provided additional data.

“The Point-In-Time count provides a year-over-year perspective for HUD to compare what’s happening in communities across the country on a single night,” said Asheville-Buncombe Homelessness Initiative staff liaison Brian Huskey. “But it’s exactly what it says it is — a “point in time” — and doesn’t necessarily represent the full spectrum of how many might experience homelessness throughout the rest of the year. And it doesn’t represent the progress being made toward our goal of ending homelessness.”

The total count for 2020 was 547 persons, down 6% (33 individuals) from 2019. This year’s data are consistent with the past several years, indicating effective homeless and housing services that have been able to prevent an increase in the scale of homelessness despite a tightening housing market. 

The City of Asheville’s priority is to decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community by continuing to develop new resources for permanent, affordable housing.  Last year, the City invested in the Housing Trust Fund and HOME Investment Partnership Program funds in Key Commons, a project of Homeward Bound, which will create 13 units of housing dedicated to people experiencing homelessness. 

Some local trends include:

Chronic homelessness123110
Veteran homelessness256218
Family homelessness4170
Unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults (under age 25) 2915

The full 2020 Point-in-Time report to be released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development later this year will include additional demographic detail and a summary of historic data. 

Sheltered Community in Harrah’s Cherokee Center Move to Hotel

José Valadez looks over the balcony at the Red Roof Inn in Asheville on Tuesday. Valadez is a client of Homeward Bound, which began housing otherwise homeless clients at the motel during the coronavirus pandemic this week. Photo by Jacob Biba, courtesy of Carolina Public Press.

By Courtney Mabeus, originally published by Carolina Public Press. Carolina Public Press is an independent, in-depth and investigative nonprofit news service for North Carolina.

It had been a while since Jose Valadez could commandeer a television without complaint.

Valadez, 50, had been homeless since the place he was sharing with a friend in Marion burned last year, he said.

On Monday, he was one of about 30 individuals who moved from a temporary shelter at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville — managed by the nonprofit Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina — to a Red Roof Inn on the city’s west side.

“Man, I feel like a king now,” Valadez said Tuesday after taking stock of his new room, which came with a flat-screen television, microwave, refrigerator, a clean, firm bed and a shower.

The Asheville City Council, meeting virtually Tuesday, unanimously approved contracts for amended services with Homeward Bound and the Red Roof Inn on Crowell Road.

Under the agreement, the city will rent 60 rooms at $44.99 per night, including tax, which will be reimbursable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An additional agreement will extend around-the-clock security to the motel.

The city had previously approved the use of the civic center for up to 50 people, but that population had dropped to about 30 after the organization was able to find permanent housing for some clients and others chose to leave, Homeward Bound Executive Director Meredith Switzer told Carolina Public Press.

The city’s move of members of its homeless population from downtown to a busy commercial highway interchange on its western side, nearly 6 miles away, did not go unnoticed Tuesday. In public comments submitted by phone before Tuesday’s council vote on the relocation to the Red Roof Inn, some callers questioned the city’s actions and arrangements for security.

Mayor Esther Manheimer said security is typically present at regular shelters and is being provided at the motel. City Manager Debra Campbell said staff studied what other jurisdictions, including Charlotte and Greensboro, had done. Assistant City Manager Cathy Ball said transportation will be provided to those who need it.

The city’s arrangement with the civic center was winding down, and a new placement was needed. City officials worked at a “fast pace” to find a location but could not force hotels to work with them, Ball said.

“As to the location, it is not ideal,” Ball said.

The civic center space provided an innovative stopgap but lacked privacy. Beds were placed several feet apart along a concourse area, Switzer said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that noncongregate spaces be identified to house unsheltered people because they may be at higher risk of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

José Valadez inside his room at the Red Roof Inn in Asheville on Tuesday. Photo by Jacob Biba, courtesy of Carolina Public Press

“They were residing in a congregate shelter area, which at the time was a great fit and met their needs and kept them safe,” Switzer said. “But this is, you know, one step better than that, because now they have privacy, they have their own bathroom facilities. We had a client yesterday who said the first thing she wanted to do is take a bath; you know, she just wanted to kind of decompress.”

Like other specially arranged shelters for homeless residents in North Carolina, the provision of housing in Asheville is coming in part through federal funding. North Carolina received approval from FEMA in early April to provide as many as 16,500 housing units, including dorms and hotels, for those at-risk for COVID-19 and who lacked stable housing. That funding has subsequently been extended to June 6, according to a letter from FEMA to Michael Sprayberry, the N.C. emergency management director, posted on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website. That letter, dated May 7, also said about 600 people had been housed in noncongregate shelters. Kelly Haight Connor, a spokesperson for DHHS, said that under the FEMA waiver, 50 shelter sites had been set up by counties, local jurisdictions and nonprofits covering 66 counties as of Friday. Switzer estimated that as many as 150 people are chronically without shelter in the Asheville area and said she was not aware of any COVID-19 cases among them. Those staying at the Red Roof Inn are signing agreements to limit travel to essential needs only and to practice social distancing, Switzer said. Homeward Bound is expected to fill the remaining rooms Wednesday and Thursday, Switzer said. The Dale Fell Community Health Center will provide health care, including telemedicine and clinics, if necessary. Those staying at the motel will have access to case management through Homeward Bound staff on-site, outdoor space, linens, internet and a contracted laundry service, Switzer said. Meals are being coordinated through 12 Baskets, a local nonprofit food relief agency. Valadez said he arrived at the civic center in early April after hearing about it on a bus. Since arriving, he said he has been able to get on medicine to treat his bipolar disorder as well as receive other services. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said..

Donation Drive in Response to COVID-19

Items critically needed at this time include: Camping gear, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, disinfectant cleaning supplies including wipes, regular baby wipes, disposable gloves, towels, soap, underwear, socks, and unopened (without the seal broken) over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers and cold medicine.

The following items are needed for our emergency shelter at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville. Donations can be dropped off on-site or at the Welcome Home Donation Center, details below. 

  • bottled water
  • single serving packaged snacks,  breakfast items, and Gatorade, sodas (especially coke), tea, juice
  • washcloths and towels
  • Lysol spray and wipes
  • laundry soap
  • socks & underwear
  • toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, feminine products, shaving cream etc)
  • games, puzzles, and books 

At this time, Homeward Bound accepting food items for our clients in housing who cannot afford it any more. Food donations can only be dropped off between 9am to noon.

  • Canned meals like Chili, Ravioli, and Spaghetti O’s.
  • Spaghetti sauce and pasta
  • canned meat (except for tuna) ham, spam, chicken, and Hormel completes
  • dried beans, rice, and pasta
  • Soups, chili and stews
  • mac and cheese that does not require milk,
  • canned vegetables and fruits
  • fresh vegetables that do not require refrigeration
  • Fresh fruits that do not require refrigeration
  • any kind of breakfast bar, belvita, oatmeal
  • Applesauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Bread
  • Cooking oil
  • Crackers
  • Instant mash potatoes
  • Nuts
  • Instant tea and lemonade

Donors may drop them off any time of day at our Welcome Home Donation Center at 205 Elk Park Drive, but preference is for between 9am to noon, in outside the front door and placed in the donation bins. In an effort to promote social distancing and to curb any potential spread of illness, donation center doors will not be open to the public and donated items will be sanitized upon receipt.

Watch the video below to hear Meredith Switzer’s interview with Taylor from WLOS. If you cannot drop off items for the donation drive at 205 Elk Park Drive in Woodfin, please consider a monetary donation to Homeward Bound. 

Find the original article from WLOS here.