Understanding Unsheltered Homelessness

Last updated or reviewed on July 27, 2022

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Homelessness has increased steadily throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular increase in the number of people who are unsheltered.  Early in 2022, the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and Dogwood Health Trust formed a collaborative to respond to the increased need, and Dogwood Health Trust offered to fund a consultancy to bring national expertise to the local community to better understand and address the crisis of unsheltered homelessness.  The City is serving as the contracting point of contact for this collaborative, and published a Request for Proposals in February 2022 on behalf of the group.  Eleven proposals were received and reviewed by a selection committee composed of staff from the three organizations.  

The National Alliance to End Homelessness was unanimously selected by the committee for their proposed approach and deep expertise.  On May 10, 2022, City Council voted to accept $72,974 from Dogwood Health Trust for a contract with the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  The City will continue to serve as the primary point of contact throughout this project, and will work closely with Buncombe County and Dogwood Health Trust throughout the process.


Phases of the Project

Phase One

Phase One is a comprehensive needs assessment to understand the increase in unsheltered homelessness, the experience of people who are unsheltered as they navigate services, the efficacy of the homeless service system, and the community context surrounding unsheltered homelessness.  During this phase, the National Alliance to End Homelessness will collect and evaluate both quantitative and qualitative data, and review our community’s homeless service system structure, governance, funding, and policies.  Quantitative data will include data from our community Homeless Management Information System, along with supplementary information shared by service providers.  Qualitative data will be collected through stakeholder interviews, surveys, and focus groups, which will include opportunities for people experiencing homelessness, homeless service providers, healthcare providers, law enforcement, neighborhood associations, businesses, faith communities, and the general public to provide input. 

All community members are invited and encouraged to participate in this phase.  Phase One will conclude with a written report and community presentation, both of which will be publicly available. 

Phase Two

In Phase Two of the project, the National Alliance to End Homelessness will use the findings from Phase One to develop a set of actionable strategies and recommendations to improve our community’s response to unsheltered homelessness.  Recommendations will include examples of best practices from across the country, including in communities that are similarly situated to ours, and will be tailored to the specific circumstances, needs, and opportunities in Asheville and Buncombe County.  Phase Two will also conclude with a written report and community presentation, both of which will be publicly available.

Project leads Kristi Schulenberg and Josh Johnson shared an overview of the project and their approach at the June 24, 2022 meeting of the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee; that recording is available here and their presentation begins at 9:14 a.m. and ends at 9:58 a.m.



How to Participate

Your input is valuable!  Please participate as you are able to ensure the National Alliance to End Homelessness has the best possible information to guide their assessment of our community’s needs and opportunities.  

Information is being gathered via:

  • Site visits and stakeholder interviews with homeless service providers
  • Stakeholder interviews and focus groups with neighborhood associations in coordination with the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods
  • Stakeholder interviews and focus groups with businesses in coordination with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce
  • Focus groups with faith communities and healthcare providers
  • Surveys of community leaders
  • Surveys and focus groups with people with current or recent experience of homelessness

All other community members are invited to contribute their perspective through this survey. The survey will be open through August 19, 2022.

If you have questions about how to provide input, please contact Emily Ball at eball@ashevillenc.gov





Project Timeline



Phase One June – August 2022
Phase One Report and Presentation September 2022 – Date TBD
Phase Two September – December 2022
Phase Two Report and Presentation January 2023 – Date TBD


Ongoing Project Updates

Stay up to date on this project by participating in the monthly virtual meeting of the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee, where the National Alliance to End Homelessness will present process updates as a standing agenda item throughout the project.  



Contact Information

Emily Ball
Homeless Strategy Division 




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