Homelessness issues in Asheville are long-standing and complex. Right now, the City of Asheville has an unprecedented level of resources available to help end chronic homelessness and build the homeless service system we need to best serve those experiencing homelessness. These resources come from a mix of federal funding opportunities and key partnerships with community organizations. Currently, the City is working on the purchase of the Ramada Inn for conversion to an emergency shelter (read more about this here) and, among other partners, has invested $2 million in Homeward Bound’s recent purchase of the Days Inn to provide 85 units of permanent supportive housing.
The City firmly embraces the idea that the solution to homelessness is housing. While City staff are currently focused on creating an emergency shelter, it is just one part of a comprehensive plan being developed to address homelessness. The plan includes investing in solutions to help prevent people from becoming homeless, working to provide interim shelter and services until permanent housing can be found, and helping to transition people who are homeless into permanent housing. A well-functioning homelessness services system provides many benefits, both to those experiencing homelessness and our community at large.
Homeless individuals can experience a great deal of harm as a result of their homelessness. Not having a home sharply increases the likelihood that physical and mental health conditions will worsen; they will have more interactions with police and emergency services; and be in physically dangerous and traumatic situations. It is a very difficult life. We believe that by investing in these strong humanitarian solutions, we will significantly reduce the number of people experiencing this in our City.
Homeless individuals are part of our community — data from service providers show that the majority of the over 200 chronically homeless individuals in Asheville are originally from or last had housing in WNC before becoming homeless.
As a community, we are negatively impacted when we don’t serve our homeless community members at a level that meets their needs. Locally, Homeward Bound estimates the average taxpayer cost of a chronically homeless person to be between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. This is largely due to costs associated with policing, incarceration, and emergency room visits. Other costs to our community are somewhat less quantifiable but include decreased sanitation and loss of business. In contrast, the average cost of providing supportive housing is $12,800, which is a savings to taxpayers of $17,200 – $37,200 per person per year.
Our whole community benefits when we invest in ending homelessness. Please keep in touch with the City’s Community Development division to learn more and get updates on the City’s progress on improving our homeless service system.