Overview of Homelessness in Asheville

Who’s homeless in Asheville?

In the 2024 Point-in-Time Count, which is an annual census of people experiencing homelessness, we identified 739 people without housing.  Most people (520) were in emergency shelter or transitional housing programs, but 219 were unsheltered, meaning camping, sleeping in cars, or otherwise on the street.  Detailed data are available here.

We use the term “people experiencing homelessness” to honor the fact that housing status is just that, and doesn’t diminish anyone’s innate humanity.  People experiencing homelessness are people above all else, and are in a current season of crisis. 


Why are people homeless?

Homelessness occurs when people lack sufficient resources and support during a normal life crisis.  Homelessness often coincides with unemployment, mental health disorders, substance use, criminal justice involvement, and medical issues, but the vast majority of people who experience those things daily in our community aren’t homeless.  When people don’t have a strong support network to help connect them to care or respond to a crisis, they can lose their housing.  Additionally, housing costs are the primary predictor of homelessness in any community.  If people have resources to draw on during hard times and housing they can afford, they don’t become homeless.


What about people who choose to be homeless?

In our experience, homelessness isn’t a choice: it’s a tragic result of a series of struggles.  Once people lose their housing, their choices become very limited, so what can appear as choosing to be homeless is actually a lack of other options.  


Are people losing housing here, or arriving here without housing?

Both, but based on available data, most people were Asheville residents when they lost their housing. In the 2024 Point-in-Time count, we asked people who were unsheltered about this, and 52% of people were already living in Asheville when they lost their housing.


What services are available to people experiencing homelessness, and how do they access them?

The City of Asheville isn’t a direct service provider, but works closely with a wide variety of organizations across the community who help people meet their basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), access critical healthcare, and move into housing of their own.  People access services on their own or through referrals, and service providers are working to better coordinate entry into the homeless service system so people can access the resource that best fits their situation.  While many services throughout the community connect with people experiencing homelessness, core components of the homeless service system are:

  • Street outreach and day services: Homeward Bound, BeLoved, Sunrise
  • Emergency Shelter: Haywood Street, Helpmate, Safe Shelter, Salvation Army, Western Carolina Rescue Ministries
  • Transitional Housing: ABCCM, Eliada, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry
  • Permanent Housing: Helpmate, Homeward Bound, VA Medical Center
  • Homelessness Prevention: Helpmate, Homeward Bound

211 is a source of local information about social services with up-to-date details on what’s available to which eligible populations and how to access those resources.


What’s the best way for me to support people experiencing homelessness?

  • Be kind: remember that the person you’re interacting with is in a time of crisis and stress, has likely experienced severe trauma, and is struggling to meet their basic safety and survival needs.  Treat people like people, look them in the eye, smile and offer a hello.
  • Partner with a homeless services organization by donating money or items they need or by volunteering.
  • Housing ends homelessness, and people need units to be both affordable and meaningfully accessible to them.  If you own a short- or long-term rental property, consider renting through a supportive housing program, where your tenant will have rental assistance and case management services to help them stabilize.  Incentives and risk mitigation resources are often available to landlords as an added benefit for creating pathways out of homelessness.
  • Join the Asheville-Buncombe Continuum of Care, our community’s collaborative planning body working together to respond to homelessness effectively.


I live or work in a high-traffic area and often encounter people experiencing homelessness.  How can I make sure we interact positively?

Start by building rapport – having a basic human connection established will go a long way.  Make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself, be pleasant – all things you might do with other neighbors or fellow business owners or customers.  Being friendly and establishing basic rapport will help if you need to ask for something to change (e.g. not blocking an entranceway) and may create opportunities to provide some assistance towards resolving your neighbor’s housing crisis.


When is it appropriate to call law enforcement or emergency responders?

  • Homelessness is a crisis, not a crime, but if a crime is occurring or your safety or the safety of someone experiencing homelessness is in jeopardy, please call 911.  To best support people experiencing homelessness, Community Responders, Community Paramedics, or law enforcement officers who are specially trained in crisis intervention may be dispatched.  
  • If someone is in active crisis related to mental health or substance use but isn’t a danger to themselves or others, call Mobile Crisis at (888) 573-1006 to have behavioral health professionals dispatched.
  • To report a crime that’s already occurred, call the Asheville Police Department at (828) 252-1110, submit a report, or submit an anonymous tip.


Is “ending homelessness” realistic?

Yes, and it’s complex.  Ending homelessness occurs at the individual level, person by person, but requires that our homeless service system have the type and scale of resources needed to respond to each person’s unique needs.  Our goal as a community is to have a well-coordinated and right-sized mix of homeless services that together forms a system that’s effective and efficient at ending homelessness.  Crises will always occur in all of our lives, but with a robust response system, we can prevent more people from becoming homeless, shorten the time people experience homelessness, and continually increase the number of people exiting homelessness.


Contact Information

Emily Ball – Homeless Strategy Division Manager