We meet people where they are: in the woods, under bridges, on the street.
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The PATH Outreach team is focused on reaching the most vulnerable homeless individuals living on the streets of our community to connect them with permanent supportive housing, healthcare, disability income, and community mental health services. We meet people where they are: in the woods, under bridges, on the street.
The team identifies individuals for services through a variety of means, including street outreach, referrals from partners within law enforcement and local hospitals, as well as community referrals.
What We Do at Path Outreach:
- Connect people to resources (from id cards to housing, depending on situation)
- Provide some basic needs (toiletries, blankets, etc.)
- Build relationships and listen
- Meet people where they are
What We Don’t Do at Path Outreach:
- Guarantee housing
- Force people to work with us
- Move or breakdown camps
- Provide immediate response
- Provide a taxi service
Path Outreach Wish List:
We are in need of the following items to assist our homeless neighbors.
- Blankets and sleeping bags (when weather is cold)
- Socks, underwear, T-shirts
- Gifts cards for grocery stores
- Rain gear (jackets, tarps, etc.)
These items can be dropped off during open hours at our Welcome Home Donation Center.
If you know of someone living outside and experiencing mental illness, please fill out the referral form below. Please note this is NOT a form for self-referral. If you, your family, or someone you know well is experiencing homelessness, please visit our AHOPE Day Center at 19 N. Ann St. in downtown Asheville or call 828.252.8883.
AHOPE Day Center
We will not reveal your information unless you specify that you’d like us to do so. You can expect a personal email within 2 business days of form submission to verify we received your submission, but in order to protect confidentiality, we will likely be unable to provide more information about our interaction with the individual.
As I watched Robert interview Ronnie on the outskirts of a wooded area in East Asheville, I thought back on the words that I had read in Kathy Izard’s book, “The Hundred Story Home: A Journey of Homelessness, Hope, and Healing“:
“…the weight of bulging backpacks and tugging bags that held the remaining contents of a life somehow lost… everyone was here because they had nowhere else to go.”
Ronnie and his girlfriend Christina* had just moved their campsite to a new location because their previous site had been destroyed by someone. They had to move on.
The life of people without homes, who live outside, is one of constant motion; moving around to avoid the police, and business owners and individuals who don’t want them on their property. Having them around is not good for business and can be frightening for families and neighbors. These are the folks that Homeward Bound’s PATH team members are reaching out to, and trying to bring inside.
PATH is a team of three – Kate, Robert and Christian. Their job is to find people living on the streets, in cars and campsites, build a trusting relationship and connect them to community resources such as community mental health and primary care providers, social security and disability income sources, and ultimately to develop a plan for housing.
Finding a home is not easy in Buncombe County, even if you are a person of means. The availability of affordable housing is less than 1% and Homeward Bound struggles to find appropriate homes for our clients. But before that search can begin, the PATH team works to find those who need housing the most.
The process looks something like this: PATH gets a call from the Asheville Police Department and staff goes to the location specified. Very often, they find the campsite but no one is there and they leave a note with their contact information.
The day I was with Kate and Robert, we saw two empty sites and at the third one, we found Ronnie and Christina. Both were hot, tired, eaten up by mosquitoes and eager to leave their difficult lives behind. Kate had met the couple several months ago and engaged Christina in conversation while Robert asked Ronnie questions to determine his level of vulnerability – how long had he been homeless, did he have income, had he been arrested, was there substance use, mental illness, HIV AIDS? Robert asked these sensitive questions with compassion and respect and without a trace of judgement, and in turn got mostly honest answers from Ronnie.
If all goes according to plan, Ronnie and Christina will be added to the waiting-list for housing. Unfortunately, the path to housing in Asheville is a long one. However, that does not deter the PATH team. They meet people where they are – in the woods, under bridges, on the street – and work diligently and compassionately to bring them inside.
Resource Development Director for Homeward Bound
*Names have been changed to protect the couple’s anonymity.
The Homeward Bound community includes caring staff, volunteers, board members, and people experiencing or moving out of homelessness. We believe that housing is a human right and use the “Housing First” national best practice to end homelessness. We care about the most vulnerable among us and work every day to help them improve their lives. Join us!
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HEARTS WITH HANDS
Address: 850 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa, NC 28778
Phone: (828) 667-1912. Hours: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Services: Heart with Hands provides general family crisis assistance.
Hearts with Hands provides food boxes for families in need of emergency food assistance. www.heartswithhands.org
Address: 63 Grove St., #C Asheville, North Carolina
Phone: (828) 254-2968; Crisis Line (828) 254-0516; Emergency/After Hours/Weekends: (828) 252-4357.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Services: Provides for persons involved in domestic violence, counseling, referral, temporary housing, emergency funds provided. All information is held in strict confidence. Fee: None. www.helpmateonline.org.