City of Asheville transitions emergency homeless shelter to motel, continues agreements with partner agencies

Red roof inn graphic illustration


The City of Asheville, Buncombe County, Homeward Bound and numerous community partners organized a resource for individuals without homes at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville on April 8.

As the City of Asheville’s 30-day agreement with Homeward Bound to manage an emergency homeless shelter at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville has expired, staff and community partners have been reviewing available options to best assist those experiencing homelessness.

Best practices emerging across the country and in other North Carolina cities now indicate that non-congregate shelter settings in motels provide an appropriate address of public health concerns for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and an opportunity to provide supportive services with the goal of transitioning as many of these individuals to permanent housing.

The purpose of both shelter locations is to serve persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 because of age and/or underlying chronic health concerns. 

The new arrangement at a local motel will expand shelter capacity from 50 to 60 and increase the number of beds available to the community’s most at-risk unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness.  

Homeward Bound will continue to lead operations and has arranged transportation for shelter residents, security services will continue in the new location, and Asheville Poverty Initiative will continue to coordinate and deliver meals to the new location. Homeward Bound will also manage intake for additional guests over the coming days to reach full capacity by the end of the week. Those guests have already been identified and meet the same criteria as the Harrah’s shelter: currently homeless and unsheltered with one or more CDC-identified risk factors, prioritized by age and vulnerability.

The number of people staying in the Harrah’s Center shelter dropped to fewer than 30 during the last week. 

Newly available FEMA reimbursement specifically for non-congregate COVID-19 emergency motel homeless shelters now makes this motel shelter option more feasible.

City Council authorized related contracts and agreements in its consent agenda during Council’s May 12 meeting. Here is a link to the staff report.