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The Importance of Collaboration June 13, 2012

Posted by abhomeless in Uncategorized.

Police ensure community safety in the context of a larger collaborative of City Departments and agencies that work to find long-term solutions for people who experience homelessness.

The Asheville Police Department (APD) has an obligation and responsibility to enforce the law.  Unfortunately, enforcement of the law can create a negative perception which is reflected on those carrying out the law.  This has been the case in our community, especially as it relates to those experiencing homelessness.  Sometimes, the relationship between the police department and those experiencing homelessness is positive, but many times, the relationship needs repair.  The APD, City partners, and service providers working with the homeless, are strategically working together to tackle this issue.

Homeless camping gives a vivid picture of the dynamics between the police and those experiencing homelessness.  As summer approaches and the weather warms up, more and more individuals choose to camp outside as oppose to sleeping in shelters.  As a result, the clash between police and homeless campers becomes more apparent.

The police have the authority and duty to carry out the law against illegal camping.  These laws are in place for a reason, which is to protect the health and safety of those camping and those in the community.  The purpose is not to criminalize the homeless.  Camping itself is not an illegal activity; campers only break the law when they don’t have a camping permit or permission to camp on the land, or when their campsite does not comply with building and safety codes.  The police have the obligation to make sure campers abide the law, so when campers break the law, there will be consequences.

The City’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness was inspired by people who have no other place to call home and therefore sleep outside; this plan has implemented successful strategies and assisted in many people who were once campers get into housing. This plan is carried out through partnering with agencies in the Homeless Coalition.  These agencies collaborate together to prevent or end homelessness for everyone experiencing a housing crisis by building relationships with people and focusing on removing barriers to housing while offering services and resources that can sustain housing.

The Homeless Initiative encourages communication and collaboration with the police and service providers so that those experiencing homelessness are able to navigate resources available to them. In order to have a sustainable impact, the police work with other departments in the city and community service providers so that people who camp outside are connected to information and resources that can lead to housing. Service providers currently partner with the APD by connecting those in the camps with resources available in our community. Through communicating with service providers, the police are educated and aware of the vulnerability and particular needs of those living in campsites.



1. John K. Spitzberg - June 15, 2012

The Asheville Homeless Network (AHN) wishes to point out that permits for camping cost money. By definition homeless campers are generally poverty stricken and cannot pay for these permits. A step in the correct direction would be for the city not to charge for the permits and to take responsibility for working with our non-governmental organization to eliminate this problem by providing a safe haven public space for camping. AHN stands ready to assist in this endeavor. John Spitzberg, Asheville Homeless Network, President

2. Sabrah n'haRaven - September 15, 2012

You know, when this was first posted, I was too disgusted with the City’s talking point that “connecting to services” solves everything, as if most campers weren’t already connected to services, as if once someone gets on a waiting list — assuming they’re even eligible — they’re just going to vanish into hyperspace where the city won’t have to look at them anymore. I couldn’t be bothered to give that attitude my time then, and I didn’t expect this post to turn up when I was searching for something else this morning.

But since it has … absolutely, the police have to enforce the law. Except, you know, when the law specifically says: “This article shall not be enforced when facilities are unavailable to provide emergency shelter to the public.” Since there are way more homeless in this town than there are shelter beds, the no-camping ordinance is unenforceable by its own criteria.

A shame I didn’t realize this a few months ago when both I and AHN separately asked the Coalition to promote a moratorium on camping evictions until sufficient emergency shelter was available. I had no idea at the time that I was only asking people to support what the law already SAYS.

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