ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Two weeks after clearing homeless campsites, the city of Asheville is weighing long-term solutions to address homelessness. A plan proposed during the city council’s April 27 budget work session includes a $10 million budget to increase long-term shelter options. The funding accounts for roughly 40 percent of all funding the city is set to receive from the American Rescue Plan.
In the final weeks of April, well more than 120 people were relocated from tent communities in Asheville area parks and placed into rooms in one of three area hotel rooms. The city is paying for their stays through the end of June, according to assistant city manager Cathy Ball.
In the weeks since, a peer support network through Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness has worked to identify the individual needs of people now in temporary shelter. The network has connected folks with medical care and mental health services. Through community donations, Sunrise has been able to provide daily meals. Sue Polston, the nonprofit’s executive director said they’ll next assess employment opportunities.
“We have several handfuls of folks who are ready, able and willing. They just didn’t have laundry, they didn’t have a shower, proper hygiene to show up and be present for employment,” Polston said, adding that not everyone in temporary shelter is that far along in their transition process.
The city is paying for hotel rooms with money from the American Rescue Plan.
The proposed budget allocates $1.2 million for the current hotel stays, $2 million for transitional housing through Homeward Bound at the former Days Inn, $2 million for new traditional shelter space and $5 million for the creation of low barrier shelters.
Derick Hall is a member of Anchor, which is a collaborative team of people across different professional fields actively searching for creative solutions for Asheville‘s homeless crisis. He believes low-barrier shelter space is the best mid-range solution because it offers people experiencing homelessness a place to sleep, eat, shower and reset without caveats.
Unlike traditional shelters, low barrier shelters accept couples, people with pets and don’t mandate sobriety tests.
Critics said it can potentially create an environment where people are using drugs or alcohol in an enclosed space, thus allowing and promoting more drug use.
Hall said the alternative is to turn people away, which lands them back on the streets or possibly in jail, which effectively promotes the cycle of chronic homelessness.
“We have since come to find out that there is an idea that works better that is harm reduction. With harm reduction, if someone’s using, you acknowledge the fact that they are using,” the licensed social worker said, adding that the next step is support, shelter and then treatment.
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