Recognizing the additional threat of harm posed by COVID-19 to already vulnerable unsheltered residents, the City of Asheville has taken proactive measures to provide socially distanced emergency shelter to people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
Initially, the City provided temporary shelter to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness who are at increased risk for COVID-19 because of age and/or underlying chronic health conditions at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in April 2020. As best practices for mitigating COVID-19 risk among homeless populations emerged, the City contracted for 60 rooms at a local motel to shelter the most vulnerable unsheltered homeless adults in the community. To date, 132 people have been provided shelter since the pandemic began. Some of them have been in couples or family groups. Of those served, 25 have found permanent housing through partner agencies, such as Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina.
And this work continues. During their Jan. 26 meeting, Asheville City Council voted to appropriate $1.06 million in funding to extend existing agreements with Red Roof Inn, Homeward Bound, and Axis Security to serve the 67 people (couples, families occupying some rooms) currently in the shelter. This is being done as a public health measure with the goal of continuing to help prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds will reimburse 100% of the City’s expenses for this operation.
This is in keeping with the City Council stated goals of a diverse community, a well-planned and livable community and a financially resilient community.
Council’s resolution will enable the City to sustain this operation through the end of the City’s fiscal year on June 30. As an additional benefit, this will provide additional time to find housing placement for shelter occupants. It also addresses public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the State of Emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Asheville has worked in coordination with the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services to address and help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, and this is just one example.
Find a copy of the resolution at this link.