By Kimberly King
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — A homeless woman staying at the Ramada Inn homeless shelter in Asheville has died from a drug overdose, News 13 confirmed Thursday, Dec. 23.
Her death is the second at the hotel — with Asheville Police Department initiating an investigation into another body found Tuesday, Dec. 21 at Ramada.
The overdose also marks the third just this week, according to Ashley Lung, Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness and Ramada Inn shelter director.
“They tried to resuscitate her,” said Eric Hall, who says he knew the woman who died.
Hall, who is homeless and has also been living at the Ramada, said residents are emotional after the wave of overdoses this week.
“All I got before running errands in town was that she was transported by EMT,” he told News 13.
The death comes after a week of emergency responders showing up at the motel. Monday, Dec. 20, a male resident died from an overdose. Residents told New 13 a homeless man who overdosed Wednesday survived.
“It’s not just here,” said Hall. “But it’s happening across the city.”
Last week, News 13 reported there were at least four overdoses and a recent overdose death at the former homeless encampment along I-240 which was shut down and cleared by the City of Asheville.
Brian Combs, pastor of Haywood Street Congregation, works closely to help the homeless community in the city. His church sits next to the property where the former I-240 encampment grew. On Thursday, Combs was on site at the Ramada to provide residents with grief counseling after the news unfolded of the latest overdose victim. Combs provided a statement:
“We’re seeing a rash of overdoses throughout the community as more people succumb to fentanyl and meth use. As the COVID pandemic has raged on, the far more dangerous fatal pandemic of addiction has only accelerated. We’ve witnessed endless congregants attempt to manage the trauma of poverty, medicate their mental illness, and emotionally escape the desperation of surviving without permanent shelter via drug use. With so many turning to meth often laced with fentanyl, the overdoses are staggering. We’ve eulogized so many people the names are starting to blur.”
While Combs continues his outreach, people who live next to the Ramada Inn apartment complexes continue to express unease and concerns about safety.
“Obviously, there are some pretty desperate folks who live up there,” said a man who lives in River Ridge, the complex adjacent to the Ramada shelter. The man spoke on the condition News 13 wouldn’t use his name. He said he struggles with feeling both compassion and unease over the city’s Ramada shelter and homeless transition plan.
“They’re much better off in a facility than they would be on the streets; I’m just not sure this is the right place for the facility, to be honest with you,” he continued.
The man said there are women in their 80s living in his complex who have had interactions with Ramada residents that made them feel unsafe. The man said the fact the Ramada is surrounded by rental complexes makes it a less-than-ideal location for a homeless transitional project.
Hall, who has been living at the Ramada for months, said he doesn’t touch drugs and has no interest. He said he has been homeless in Asheville for more than a year and that he is aware of the addiction crisis and, like many people, doesn’t know how it can be solved.
“The city doesn’t have answers,” said Hall. “And we don’t have answers.”
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