Homeward Bound’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness through permanent housing and support. To that end, we work with individuals experiencing homelessness and meet them where they are. We assist them in any way we can to make their lives more stable, safe, and secure while waiting for permanent housing.
Since the onset of Covid, shelter space has been limited and scattered campsites along the west side of the French Broad River have been shut down in preparation for greenway construction. These and other economic factors have contributed to large, more visible encampments in public parks. Combined with the particular stresses of Covid on our homeless population, these large encampments have created safety issues, for the campers and for the community. We acknowledge that safety concerns need to be addressed on an individual basis, but also believe that displacement of an entire camp site with no safe place to go puts campers’ mental and physical health at further risk. We maintain that shelter and encampments are not the solution to homelessness, but are necessary in the interim until permanent affordable housing is available.
Homeward Bound’s position is that campers on public property should not be moved without alternative locations for them to move to. We applaud the City on its announcement this evening that homeless campers in Riverbend Park have been offered safe alternatives. We advocate that this approach continue to be followed. Safe alternatives to camping might include more hotel rooms, a low barrier shelter, and outdoor space with basic amenities such as toilets, water, showers, and sanitation. An intentional focus on organization, safety, predictability, and a cooperative mindset will help reduce violence and disruptive behaviors. Additionally, homeless service providers can offer needed resources, harm reduction interventions, and basic services to make hotel, shelter or camp sites more stable.
We are committed to working with our local government, non-profit partners, and other community groups to find solutions as quickly as possible. If you are interested in helping with your resources, time or energy, please contact Homeward Bound at firstname.lastname@example.org.