The Asheville Buncombe Homeless Initiative recently completed its annual Point in Time Count of homeless families and individuals in Asheville and Buncombe County. This year’s count showed a decrease in those experiencing homelessness down from 570 in January 2013 to 533 in January 2014. This year’s count also showed only 47 people still experiencing chronic homelessness, down 84% from 293 chronically homeless individuals identified in 2005.
In 2005, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission adopted a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. A collaboration of service providers, city and county staff, elected officials and other interested stakeholders oversee this plan through the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee.
Gordon Smith, who serves as the City Council liaison to the Advisory Committee said, "Asheville is living up to its reputation as a community that cares. I'm grateful for everyone who's had a role in aiding the homeless. The Point-In-Time count reflects dedication and commitment to ending chronic homelessness."
The Asheville-Buncombe community took on the challenge of ending chronic homelessness by 2015 when the 10 Year Plan was adopted. The chronically homeless are individuals or families with a disabling condition who are homeless for more than a year, or experience four episodes of homelessness within three years. Homeless Initiative staff members continue to work with community partners to develop new permanent housing solutions for persons experiencing chronic homelessness, including a proposal for some new apartments where residents will have access to support services like medical and mental health care on site.
This year’s Point in Time Count showed that family and youth homelessness, although generally shorter in duration, continues to be a challenge. Overall, that number remained flat from 2013 to 2014, indicating strategies are in place to prevent that number from increasing and that more work is needed to decrease those numbers. The Initiative is also working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of a nationwide effort to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.
The Homeless Initiative will be focusing in coming months on strengthening efforts to address all forms of homelessness, including rapid re-housing strategies to ensure a quick transition back into safe, stable and sustainable housing for families who have become homeless, as well as prevention strategies to ensure housing stability for those imminently at risk of homelessness.