Watch John Le’s story on WLOS about Key Common, Homeward Bound’s newest endeavour into becoming property owners. “Our first foray into owning our own property,” explained Executive Director Meredith Switzer. Watch the video for interviews with Board Member Brian Methvin, as well as Duke Energy employees who participated in the beautification process.
Homeward Bound staff member Erin recently transitioned into a new role as liaison between Buncombe County Library staff and the homeless community accessing the library. The County approached Homeward Bound because they had so many homeless individuals spending time in the library. With our help, library staff now have additional support and homeless services can be provided directly to those who need them.
Community support is the only way we can come together to end homelessness.
How did the need for the position get started and how was it created?
I believe the library noticed they’ve had an increasing number of patrons experiencing homelessness. They wanted to provide more support for those individuals.
What type of work do you do on a day to day basis?
I work one on one with individuals experiencing homelessness, helping them to navigate the housing market and community resources. This can look a lot of different ways, depending on the needs of the individual. Sometimes I simply provide lists of income-based housing or shelters. Other times, I accompany people to do housing applications and visit programs for the first time. I regularly help people connect to community resources like health care, free food, employment and shelter. I do a lot of active listening.
What has been the biggest surprise? What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest surprise is the magnitude of need for homeless services throughout Buncombe County libraries. I’m extremely busy! The biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing in Asheville right now.
Asheville City Council approved a $530,000 loan agreement for Homeward Bound in July. The funds will be used to purchase and refurbish a one-acre property at 296 Short Michigan Avenue that has five structures, currently containing 8 one-bedroom apartment units, and 3 two-bedroom units. The repurposed property will provide permanent housing for disadvantaged families and individuals in the Buncombe County area who have an income of less than 60% of the Area Median Income, which is estimated to be $66,000 a year for a family of four.
The City Council Planning staff reportedly stated that the new initiative positively “impacts a population that has traditionally been very hard to serve through the Community Development division’s affordable housing tools,” as reported by Citizen Times. Homeward Bound adopts a housing-first model to effectively reduce homelessness.
This will be the first owned housing development for Homeward Bound, which has previously utilized city properties and rental agreements with landlords to find permanent housing for over 2,050 people since 1999 when the organization was founded.
Executive Director of Homeward Bound, Meredith Switzer reiterated the excitement within the organization and the wider positive effects of this project, that it will not only benefit “the folks we’re able to house at this property and at this site, but also what it’s going to mean for the community moving forward with much bigger projects with a much greater impact.”
Check out Chris and his story from StoryShare. He started out entering AHOPE while he was living outside, using it as an oasis for a shower, hot coffee and a place to pick up mail. After Chris moved into his own home, he decided to give back to AHOPE and help others in need of assistance. Watch the video and hear his heartwarming tale.
The Struggle is Real.
April is a single mom with two teenage daughters who were homeless for six years. She grew up with a single mother who experienced domestic violence and struggled to find healthy ways to cope and keep her children safe. April also experienced relationship violence as an adult and created similar hardships for her and her children.
April had to live separately from her daughters because she did not have a permanent home.
April lived in and out of shelters in Asheville while working at a local motor lodge. Shelters felt like a prison to April, waiting for lockers and showers and strict bedtimes so, often, she lived on the streets. Homelessness required her to walk all night and stay awake to withstand the coldness of winter.
April’s Daughter Comes to Town
April’s oldest daughter texted her in June of 2018 to say she wanted to live with her. April had been staying at a local shelter, but they wouldn’t take in the 17-year-old. Rather than be separated again, April and her daughter began sleeping in their Jeep in church parking lots. They acquired many trespassing tickets throughout the winter time while April’s daughter was recovering from pneumonia. The Jeep was finally towed, along with all of their personal belongings. Throughout this time, April and her daughter continued to go to AHOPE for showers, charging their cell phones, snacks, and other needed services.
On January 29, Homeward Bound Case Manager Amanda moved April and her family into their very own home. With a letter from Homeward Bound saying they were housed, the courts dropped the trespassing charges they received while living in their car.
April wants people to know that ‘the struggle is real’ and that there aren’t enough shelters for single mothers or fathers with children. She and her daughters had to wait over four months for their apartment because three bedroom units are few and far between.
She also explains that working full time or even part-time, and living on the streets, is virtually impossible when you are trying to keep your family together and safe. Now that they have moved into their own home, they are making plans for the girls to continue their education and for April to get back to work.
Life is on the upswing!
Finding Home is an intimate piece of theater with a cast of eight singers and actors and a band to support Homeward Bound.