What is an emergency shelter, and why does the City of Asheville want to open one?

Emergency shelter photo illustration
emergency shelter


While our community has strong shelter providers, our homeless service system needs more overnight capacity for people with complex needs. The existing system gap poses an opportunity to create an emergency shelter with individual rooms for each person or family. 


People experiencing homelessness are often in crisis.  This shelter would also provide clinical care and housing-focused services to help people quickly exit homelessness into permanent housing. 


The City of Asheville is currently under contract to purchase the Ramada Inn at 148 River Ford Parkway to convert to this emergency shelter. The proposed shelter is geared towards people currently living outside whose needs are not a good match for other shelter providers.


The City proposes to create this emergency shelter with a high-access approach. This approach is built around the idea that programs should fit the needs of the people they serve. They identify reasons people typically don’t come into shelters and addresses those practices, such as:

  • No requirements for entry (ex. ID, sobriety)
  • All demographics and household compositions served; no one excluded
  • Rules are minimal and anchored in safety
  • 24/7 access, smoking area, pets allowed


“High-access” doesn’t mean “no rules.” Providers place a heavy emphasis on second chances; people who are asked to leave today are welcome to try again tomorrow. Rules are designed to promote health and safety. Additionally, having individual rooms can foster a sense of personal safety and minimize conflict.


Another key piece of the emergency shelter model is providing wrap-around services. As people experiencing homelessness may have a wide variety of complex needs, wrap-around services are available so that people can access food, medical, mental health, substance abuse, job readiness, and permanent housing placement services. In early August, the City plans to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a shelter operator who will be required to provide these wrap-around services to unhoused individuals at the shelter. 


Important upcoming dates for this initiative include:


Staff is in the process of creating a transitional plan until a shelter operator is selected and can begin operations. It’s important to note that although the City is releasing an RFP for the shelter operator and posting a job position for a Shelter Coordinator, both depend on City Council approving the Ramada Inn purchase. The City is posting them in advance so that it can move quickly in the event that the purchase and funding are approved. 


RELATED: Homelessness: Emergency shelter and the Ramada Inn