We understand that downtown, and our community as a whole, are facing significant overlapping challenges including Covid recovery, a 21% increase in people who are unsheltered, substance use and mental health crisis, staffing shortages in multiple City and County departments and others.
We have shared recent survey data and concerns from our members, downtown businesses and residents with City and County elected officials and staff.
Here are some updates on initiatives that are in process or upcoming. Please note that information is rapidly changing and this page will be updated as more information becomes available.
- Through funding from the Dogwood Health Trust, the City of Asheville and Buncombe County have contracted with the National Alliance to End Homelessness to conduct an needs assessment on homelessness, focusing on people who are unsheltered, and make both short and long-term recommendations. Qualitative data has been collected through stakeholder interviews, surveys and focus groups, and has included input from people experiencing homelessness, homeless service providers, healthcare providers, law enforcement, neighborhood associations, businesses, faith communities, and the general public. As Phase One is winding down, NAEH is shifting to crafting recommendations based on identified community needs. Results from each phase were originally planned to be delivered separately, but based on NAEH’s successful work in other communities and the interwoven content between needs and recommendations, results will now be shared through a combined report, anticipated in January 2023. Read more about this project here.
- Homeward Bound has an Outreach Team to provide resources for people experiencing homelessness and assistance to businesses and residents. They can be reached at 828-768-3435.
- The City of Asheville is hiring three new full-time positions in the Homeless Strategy Division to focus on training and development, integrated health and housing, and data and compliance.
- Both the City and County included budget line items for Code Purple sheltering. Code Purple emergency shelter is available to people experiencing homelessness when the temperature is at or below 32 degrees. Additional funding will allow for more bed availability and a better coordinated system for getting people to shelters. Read more about the 2022/2023 Code Purple Plan here. The City recently announced a plan to house up to two families experiencing homelessness in the former Asheville Primary School in West Asheville through the winter.
- There are two permanent supportive housing projects under construction for unhoused people. Homeward Bound is developing the Days Inn project on Tunnel Road which will house 85 people/families and include wraparound services and onsite case management. California-based companies — nonprofit Step Up on Second Street Inc. and for-profit developer Shangri-La Industries, will renovate the Ramada Inn in East Asheville into 100 units of permanent supportive housing. This project broke ground on December 13. Read more about the Days Inn Project or Ramada Project.
- Haywood Street Congregation is planning an affordable housing development just outside of downtown on West Haywood Street. The development will house people at 80%, 60% and 30% AMI. (area median income) with half of the apartments reserved for people with housing choice vouchers. Read more here.
- The Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee is the governance board for the Continuum of Care so will be key in driving implementation of NAEH recommendations. Continuum of Care is federal funding that supports homeless and housing programs throughout the County.
Public Safety & Alternative Response Teams
- The Asheville Police Department is working with a recruiting firm to publicize job openings and reach more candidates. In December 2022, 14 new officers were sworn in.
- The Buncombe County Community Paramedic Program is receiving ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding to expand to include response teams in four areas: Homelessness and Behavioral Health Outreach Team, Crisis Intervention Team, Mobile Medication Assisted Treatment Team (MAT) and Post Overdose Response Team (PORT). The program is currently hiring for its team.
- The City of Asheville recently announced the Community Responder Program to respond to provide immediate and proactive response to people who are unsheltered, suffering from Substance Use Disorder or mental/behavioral health crisis. This program is currently in the development stage and will roll out over the next few months.
- Construction is currently underway on new behavioral health hospital off Sweeten Creek Road. The 120-bed facility is slated to open in early 2023, and will offer advanced therapies, technologies and evidence-based best practices to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.
- The City of Asheville amended its downtown cleanliness contract with WNC Landscaping to include “hotspot” cleaning to better respond to areas of concentrated litter that are not on the contractor’s daily route. This additional capacity will allow the City to strategically deploy its cleaning services.
- The City Council approved $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for downtown restroom improvements. The goal of this funding is to source, purchase, and install a downtown public restroom facility that would be open to the general public 24-7 in a safe and accessible public space.
- Public Works was awarded $500,000 in ARPA funding to address communitywide cleanliness. The request for proposals to identify a vendor to provide additional roadside and community-wide hot spot litier cleanup is scheduled to be advertised by December 2022. Staff anticipates selecting a vendor in spring 2023, with services initiating shortly after contract award.
- The City Manager’s Office is hiring a part-time special projects coordinator to streamline and enhance the city’s response to inquiries and to more strategically deploy city resources. This position will also coordinate a consistent approach for responding to requests that span multiple departments and organizations (such as NCDOT). The City Manager’s Office plans to fill this position on by mid-December 2022.
- Buncombe County recently received grant funding for the the Jail Diversion and Re-Entry Program which serves individuals who interface with the criminal justice system due to serious mental illness and substance use. The program provides case management, treatment planning and evidence-based group programming at the detention facility. Case managers provide information to the courts and serve as resources to law enforcement. The program seeks to increase engagement with community-based services and reduce the likelihood of re-arrest.
- The City and County will receive opioid settlement monies to fund future opioid remediation efforts. The City will receive ~$1.5M and the County ~$16M over 17 years. Share your feedback on how you would like to see Buncombe County utilize these funds via this survey.