Asheville landlords part of homeless conversation

The effort to address homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County relies on as many partnerships and as many voices as possible. After all, the motto for the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative is, “Ending Homelessness Together.”

That’s why, on August 13, the City of Asheville, alongside the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Coalition, hosted a landlords’ luncheon at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. The event was intended to supply area landlords with information on how they can help prevent homelessness and to inform them of programs in place, like rent assistance, that provide opportunities to house or retain housing for tenants who are experiencing homelessness or who may be at risk for homelessness.

But, says Homeless Initiative Coordinator Amy Sawyer, a big motive for the event was the opportunity to listen to the concerns, questions and successes of area landlords and include them in the larger homelessness conversation.

“What I think is really great is that it brought together different groups of people who have similar interests but don’t necessarily realize it,” Sawyer said. “It’s really about making connections.”

By Sawyer’s count, 41 landlords attended the luncheon, as well as representatives of partner agencies within the Homeless Coalition, including: OnTrack, Homeward Bound of Asheville, the WNC Community Health Services, the VA Medical Center, the Asheville Housing Authority and Pisgah Legal Services.

In 2005, Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioners adopted a 10-year-plan to end homelessness, an effort headed up by the city’s Homeless Initiative office. The plan coordinates cross-agency cooperation to address needed services to prevent and remedy chronic homelessness in the Asheville area. Key components in the effort include the housing-first model, in which people experiencing homelessness are placed in housing, and preventative steps to address families and individuals who may be at risk of losing their homes.

Sawyer says that it is critical that landlords be aware of the programs available to tenants at risk, their legal rights, and also be brought into the housing-first process.

“If they know that we can actually help tenants pay their rent, that there is assistance there, they can have better relationships with their tenants,” Sawyer says. “And if they develop more personal relationships, they are more likely to accept someone who is participating in the program.”

And, Sawyer, notes, it is important to hear the concerns of landlords in order to tailor the process so the concerns of everyone involved are addressed.

“We appreciate the chance to hear from them on what they feel worked and what didn’t work,” Sawyer says.

The City of Asheville’s Homeless Initiative relies on the input from all parties involved in the issue of homelessness and, in collaboration with the VA Medical Center, will host two events on Friday September 10: Project Connect (8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St.) and the VA Stand Down (9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Stephens-Lee Rec Center).

Both events will provide onsite, barrier-free services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The VA Stand Down focuses on issues specific to veterans while Project Connect is open to the community at large. The events will be held on the same day within walking distance of each other in order for participants to maximize the services available. For example, after receiving veteran-specific services at the VA Stand Down, the individual may then chose to come to Project Connect to receive other broad-based services.

For more information on these events, contact Katherine McCrory, Homeless Initiative Communications Coordinator at 232-4546 or kmccrory@ashevillenc.gov.

Click here for more information on the City of Asheville Homeless Initiative and its associated programs.