Solving homelessness in our area begins with understanding it. Here are some of the questions we often get and their answers. If we haven’t addressed your question, please contact us.
Why do people become homeless?
At Homeward Bound, we know that many paths can lead a person to homelessness.
Life crises like domestic violence, medical emergencies, divorce, mental illness, and job loss—all normal issues that can happen to anyone—are some of the ways people end up without housing.
The difference for the people who become homeless as a result of these life events is that they don’t have a support system to turn to while in crisis—someone who can offer financial, practical, and emotional help to get through the emergency.
VETERANS. SINGLE MOTHERS. YOUNG ADULTS WHO AGE OUT OF THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS. PEOPLE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR JOBS. PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.
In our region, over 500 people experience homelessness on any given night, and more than 3,000 people experience it throughout the course of a year. 37% of them are veterans. 11% of them are children. Very few of them have come to Asheville homeless; 75% had housing in Buncombe County before they became homeless and many of them are from this area originally.
What’s it like to be homeless?
BEING HOMELESS IS TRAUMATIC AND OFTEN FRIGHTENING, EXHAUSTING, AND DEHUMANIZING.
People don’t look you in the eye or treat you with respect. You’re susceptible to violence, theft, and assault. Being homeless means being exhausted and undernourished, with almost no rest. You don’t know where your next meal is coming from or where you will sleep at night.
Men and women can stay in shelters if there are enough beds available. Shelters in our area often don’t have enough beds in extreme weather.
Many people sleep in their cars or at campsites—some because they can’t get into the shelters and others because their mental illnesses make shelters a scary environment. During the day, many people visit the library or other public places, or they go to our Day Center for basic services and a safe place to rest.
What about the people who choose to be homeless?
The notion that people choose to be homeless is a bit of a fallacy. Homelessness isn’t a choice or a lifestyle, it’s a terrible reality. When people become and stay homeless, it can be hard to see a way out. Sometimes people who have been homeless for a long time may say they are choosing it and it can be because they no longer remember what it’s like to be in housing.
Where are people rehoused?
MOST OF OUR HOUSING IS IN APARTMENTS AND TRAILERS, OWNED BY PRIVATE LANDLORDS.
When we move people into housing, they either go into public housing or privately owned housing, also known as Scattered-Site housing. The Housing Authority of the City of Asheville provides public housing options and is based on income: clients pay sliding-scale rent to the Housing Authority based on what they make. Scattered-site housing is private rental property owned by landlords who charge us fair market rates or below. We put the lease in the client’s name to build credit, but rent comes from Homeward Bound, so the landlord is assured of payment. Landlords have support from our case managers if any issues come up.
Why should I care about homelessness?
ETHICALLY, PRACTICALLY, AND FINANCIALLY, ENDING IT MAKES OUR COMMUNITY A BETTER PLACE.
When we end homelessness, we see resources freed up to meet other needs, local businesses and tourism faring better, and our neighbors restored to lives of wholeness and dignity.
It’s a public health problem. People who are homeless often have to relieve themselves outside. They lack access to health care and often have chronic illnesses, made worse by tough living conditions: sleeping outside in all weather, eating low-quality foods, and being in close quarters with unhealthy people.
Homelessness is an economic problem. People without housing consume a lot of public resources and generate expense for the community. In our tourism-driven economy, homelessness can be a deterrent to downtown visitors.
Homelessness is a human problem. Our own neighbors live in tents and under bridges, vulnerable to inclement weather and violence, stripped of dignity and our collective respect. At Homeward Bound, we believe a safe, decent, and affordable home is a basic human right.
Homelessness is such a big problem. What can I do about it?
Homelessness is a human problem with a human solution.
Check out our Donate Stuff, Donate Time, and Donate Money pages to learn more about how you can help us move people into housing and keep them housed. A small financial donation goes a long way toward someone’s housing. Your unused household items can help furnish someone’s apartment.
You can advocate to your elected officials, and ask them to make and fund policies that support rapid rehousing and permanent, supportive housing programs. And you can remember to look a homeless person in the eye and treat them with dignity and respect.
Is ending homelessness really possible?
Even though people might experience a housing crisis, it doesn’t have to lead to homelessness. We’re working to make sure that there are systems in place that help everyone access housing as quickly as possible when they become homeless, rather than languishing for years in a shelter.
Check out the following resources:
- Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative
- Coordinates our community’s Plan to End Homelessness; can provide general and statistical information on homelessness and homeless services in Asheville.
- United Way’s 2-1-1
- Provides information and referral on area services and nonprofit organizations.
- North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
- Membership organization with tools and resources for advocacy and policy change across NC.
- National Alliance to End Homelessness
- Advocacy, policy development, and information (research, fact sheets on homelessness, etc.)
- U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
- Developed and is implementing 2010’s Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.