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Today is Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day December 21, 2011

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Today is Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Held on eve of the longest night of the year, this service commemorates the lives of those who died while homeless in our community in 2011. It also calls us to join together so that no one else has to die on our streets.

Twenty-Five people died this past year alone; even though these were tragedies, there is still hope that arises out of the lives they lived. The tragedy of Mell Ailes’ death on Thanksgiving impacted many who knew him; he had been a staple in the Asheville community and always kept a smile on his face! His warmth touched many hearts, and he always wanted to help anyone in whatever way he could.

The people who died were friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members in our community.

  • Gerald Hixon found his way from homelessness into housing and had even become a member of the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee before his health problems, exacerbated by homelessness, caused his untimely death.
  • Ian Pennell was born in Sterlingshire, Scotland in 1947.  He was an accomplished artist and craftsman, specializing in jewelry-making.  For the past twenty-years, Mr. Pennell traveled across the United States, living in his van and selling hand-made jewelry in various folk art galleries and craft guilds while making connections with people along the way.
  • Sharon Ogle was a gentle soul who loved her children and cared for those around her. She was a regular volunteer at A HOPE and was always grateful for the connections she made through the day center
  • Steve Halulko, just 22 when he died, was an energetic, bright young man with charm who loved his friends and noticed the people around him.

Today’s service honors everyone listed below, in addition to those who are not named—those who have had to suffer from health problems, violence, and hunger while homeless.  The service is a joint project between the Homeless Initiative, Homeless Coalition, First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, and the Haywood Street Congregation.  It will take place at 12:30PM today at 297 Haywood St., Asheville NC.  Donations of blankets, hats, gloves, and coats are also welcome at the same location today.

In Memory

Mell Ailes

Jesse Bailey

Charles Davis

Richard Evans

Jeffrey Gault

Steve Haluko

Gerald Hixson

Rhonda Lordman

Chris Mann

Clarence Matthews

George May

Kelly Metcalf

Gerald Morgan

Adrian Nelson

Rachel Nesbeth

Rick Ochoa

Sharon Ogle

Ian Pennell

William Porter

Matthew Ratliff

Vernon Rauch

Destiny Reifschneider

Sandra Smart

Larry Short

William Wing

In Unity: Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, 12/21/2011 December 15, 2011

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Let us come together in unity to commemorate the lives of those who have died while experiencing homelessness this year.

Our annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day will be held on Wednesday, December 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.  This day of recognition  will provide an opportunity for our community to grieve the recent deaths of those men and women who experienced homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County.   Our community will unite together to show regard for those community members who are currently experiencing homelessness, as well as show support for the local agencies that work to end homelessness for all.

Every year, an average of 20 people die while homeless in this community alone, and the latest deaths of beloved community members have highlighted the issue of homelessness.  People throughout Asheville and Buncombe will join together to lift up the lives of those who died, and recommit to Ending Homelessness so that no one else dies on our streets.

The Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day:  Reflection and participation.

The Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is co-sponsored by the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, and the Haywood Street Congregation.  There are several ways that the community be involved in this year’s event.

Memorial Service, December 21 at 12:30 

  • This year’s memorial service will be held at The Haywood Street Congregation, which “seeks to be a place of welcome to all.”  Each Wednesday, the church holds a worship service, and many of those who attend experience homelessness in the Asheville-Buncombe community.
  • The Haywood Street Congregation will open its doors at 9 am for anyone who would like to come inside the sanctuary for a time of reflection.  At 11:30, the church will be providing a free community meal.  This will be followed by a special memorial service at 12:30.
  • The memorial service will provide an opportunity for anyone to share personal memories and stories of those who passed away in 2011.  At the service, various community members will read the names of those who have passed and light candles in their memory.  There will also be music, provided by Eric Wall of First Presbyterian Church.
  • The Haywood Street  Congregation is located at 297 Haywood Street at the corner of Haywood Street and Patton Avenue in Downtown Asheville.

Donations accepted

  • Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day falls on the first day of winter.  Winter is a difficult time of year for those experiencing homelessness, especially when there is a shortage of winter clothing and supplies.
  • Community members who would like to donate coats, hats, jackets, and blankets may bring them to The Haywood Street Congregation between the hours of 9 am and 12 pm.

Candles and posters

  • To show unity, downtown businesses and residents are invited to place a Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day poster or a burning candle in their window throughout the night.
  • If you would like to download a poster to print, you may click here.

On any given night, over 500 individuals are without a home in our community. Those who experience homelessness are at a much greater risk of injury and death than their housed counterparts. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, those without housing are 3-4 times more likely to die prematurely than those with housing. The average age of death for those experiencing homelessness is around 50 years in contrast to the average of 78 years for the rest of the population. Deaths among those without housing are often the consequence of inadequate access to healthcare, hate crimes and exposure to harsh weather.

We hope you will join us in commemorating the lives of those who died while homeless in 2011.  So far, we have learned of 22 people who have died this past year. If you know of someone, please contact us so that we can read their name during the memorial.

There are still opportunities to volunteer and help with the service, if interested contact Rachel at  the Homeless Initiative (rwintenburg@ashevillenc.gov).

Let us honor those who have passed away in 2011

Mell Ailes

Jesse Bailey

Charles Davis

Richard Evans

Jeffrey Gault

Steve Haluko

Gerald Hixson

Rhonda Lordman

Clarence Matthews

George May

Kelly Metcalf

Adrian Nelson

Rachel Nesbeth

Rick Ochoa

Sharon Ogle

Ian Pennell

William Porter

Matthew Ratliff

Vernon Rauch

Destiny Reifschneider

Sandra Smart

Larry Short

William Wing

Project Connect is *Just Around the Corner* August 10, 2011

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The 2011 Project Connect theme is: We Are Community 

Project Connect will take place on SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011 from 8AM-1PM @First Baptist Church on 5 Oak Street.

People with and without homes are valued in this community; this year’s event will highlight the collective commitment of the community to create and implement solutions to ending homelessness.

Some exciting things to look forward to this year:

  • Businesses, organizations, and community groups will join in on the bold goal to house as many participants as possible,
  • Resources and services ranging from hair cuts to food stamp applications will be available to people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness,
  • Community volunteers from all walks of life will have the chance to support event participants & learn about issues of homelessness, and
  • Topical Issues will be discussed throughout the day to educate and encourage community participation.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!  It will take a little bit from everyone to make this event a reality!!
Help us get people into housing
Do you have a service or resource that might help someone access housing? This includes things such as offering a donation for a rent deposit, making an apartment available to a qualified candidate or donating furniture for someone who is moving in to their own place.  Even if you aren’t sure what you could offer, are you willing to come by and sign our giant poster to show that the community is renewing its commitment to ending homelessness?  Contact Amy Sawyer to get involved.
Can you provide information or services to people who are homeless?
We want you! Get creative & imagine how you might be able to offer support. This includes things like hair dressers giving hair cuts, nurses helping with foot care, or even something like a youth group singing during lunch to brighten the atmosphere.  Sign up here to offer a service.
Do you want to volunteer at the event?
We welcome volunteers from throughout the community and commit to providing you with training and support so that your experience is meaningful and helpful.  Sign up here to volunteer.
Can you donate something?
We’re hoping to fill over 300+ backpacks with things like toothpaste/toothbrush, razors, lip-balm, socks, and winter hats – your donations would help us reach that goal!  We’re also looking for people to donate fruit, biscuits, and granola bars for breakfast. Sign up here to donate.
Get involved!  To learn more, contact: Amy Sawyer, 828.259.5851

Asheville City-Agency Collaboration Wins National HUD Award May 4, 2011

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Recently, our community was one of fourteen across the nation to receive HUD’s prestigious Door Knocker Award! To learn more about how Homeward Bound of Asheville’s “Pathways to Permanent Housing” program is helping to end homelessness in our community, check out this HOME Door Knocker’s Award link and read on below for more details!

Mercedes Marquez, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development and Donna Anderson with Door Knocker award winners Brian Alexander (Homeward Bound) and Amy Sawyer (City of Asheville) in Washington, D.C.

The City of Asheville’s Community Development Office and Homeless Initiative,  the Homeless Coalition, Homeward Bound and the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium were honored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on May 2, 2011 with a HOME program 20th Anniversary “Door Knocker Award”.

Homeward Bound’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program, “Pathways to Permanent Housing” was chosen as one of fourteen programs nationally to receive the award. HUD Assistant Secretary Mercedes Marquez said, in announcing the award, “The Pathways to Permanent Housing program demonstrates how HOME funds can be used successfully to assist communities reaching underserved populations.”

“I am proud of the City of Asheville and Homeward Bound; this is a well deserved award. Homeward Bound has shown an incredible dedication to implementing the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and has made a real impact on the lives of people in our community,” said Mayor Terry Bellamy.

Homeward Bound’s collaborative and innovative programs incorporate important community resources, services, and funds to offer people who are experiencing chronic homelessness an opportunity to move off the streets and into housing. HOME funds are used to make rent payments for persons who had formerly experienced chronic homelessness. Homeward Bound and the Consortium have learned that “housing first” strengthens the ability of these persons to stabilize their lives, leading to personal gains and the reduction in need of many other community services.

“Homelessness is solvable, and housing is the answer; our 10-Year Plan says that’s true, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness  says that’s true, and we’ve found through experience that that’s true,” said Brian Alexander, Executive Director of Homeward Bound. “Both we and the City of Asheville believe that effective stewardship of public resources means investing in solutions to homelessness, and that’s what we’ve done together through Pathways to Permanent Housing. Being recognized for that by HUD is an honor for each of us and is something our community should be proud of and should see as encouragement to continued investing in those solutions.”

This prestigious award is just one of fourteen given nationally and recognizes the dedicated partnership between the City of Asheville, the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium and community agencies like Homeward Bound. Asheville and Consortium have participated in the federal HOME program since its inception in 1991. HOME funds are allocated annually by HUD specifically to help communities create and retain affordable housing. It is the largest federal block grant program dedicated to producing affordable housing at the state and local level. The Asheville Regional Housing Consortium, comprised of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania Counties, and managed by the City of Asheville Community Development Division has been recognized by HUD as a model for other multi-county HOME consortiums.

Amy Sawyer, the City’s Homeless Initiative Coordinator, and Brian Alexander, attended HUD’s 20th Anniversary Conference to accept the award from Assistant Secretary Mercedes Marquez on May 2, 2011. The main focus of the conference was on helping HUD partners strengthen their affordable housing programs. During the conference, Ms Sawyer and Mr Alexander gave a presentation on best practices for tenant based rental assistance.

For more information on the City of Asheville’s disbursement of Tenant-Based Rental Assistance or the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, contact Amy Sawyer, Homeless Initiative Coordinator, at (828).259.5851 or asawyer@ashevillenc.gov. To learn more about Homeward Bound’s programming, contact Brian Alexander at (828).258.1695 or brian@hbofa.org.

Housing for All – The 2011 Homeless Summit March 15, 2011

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On Thursday, March 24 the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative will host its annual Homeless Summit.

HOUSING FOR ALL: A PLAN IN MOTION

March 24, 2011

8:30am – 4:30pm

Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway Street

Asheville, North Carolina

The Summit, called Housing for All: A Plan in Motion, is open to all members of the Asheville-Buncombe community. The goal of the Summit is to provoke an energetic discussion between agencies, faith groups, business owners, college students and faculty, people experiencing homelessness and all other members of our community that will lead to strategic steps we take as we continue to make a true impact on homelessness in our community.

The Summit will provide an opportunity to discuss the Homeless Initiative’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and our community’s goals for the future as we look at where we’ve come and where we’re going in our efforts to end homelessness. We hope you can join us for the whole day but if not, we’d love for you to come when you can!

Housing for All: A Plan in Motion Summit agenda:

Sign-In, 8:30AM

Morning Presentations

Opening and Welcome: Asheville City Council

A System in Transition: Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, Denise Neunber, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

Asheville’s 10-Year Plan: Looking in the Rearview Mirror, Checking for Blind Spots, and Hitting the Gas, David Nash, Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee Chair, and Robin Merrell, Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee Member

Housing First Works: The Story of the Chronic Homeless Team, Chronic Homeless Team Participants

Lunch:

Learning in Context: Summit Participants will have a chance to meet local service providers and people who have experienced homelessness.

Leadership Lunch: Community leaders will hold a strategic dialogue to discuss how to meet the goals of the 10-Year Plan and Opening Doors.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions, highlights include:

  • Anishnawbe Health: A Story of Successful Street Outreach in Toronto, Canada
  • Nourishing the Spirit: Faith & Homelessness
  • Past and Future: UNC Asheville’s Collaborations with the Community on Understanding and Preventing Homelessness
  • The Power of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)
  • SOAR – Accessing SSI/SSDI means income and housing stablity for people with disablities
  • Opening Doors and Implementing 10-Year Plans Across the State
  • Follow-Up from Last Year’s Summit: Circles & Hope to Home Programs
  • Ending the Cycle: Jail Diversion and Crisis Intervention Training
  • Zoning! Knowing where to build, sell, and devleop.
  • A deeper look at the Chronic Homeless Team

Closing Comments – 3:30PM

Registration is $15 and includes lunch. *Scholarships are available, indicate your need during registration.

Click here to register or contact Katherine McCrory at 828.259.5733.

We’ll see you all at there!

Conference on Ending Family Homelessness Brings People Across the Nation Together February 16, 2011

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The National Alliance to End Homelessness hosted the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness this past week. The conference offered people with personal experiences of homelessness, staff from agencies, researchers, decision makers, and 10-Year Plan advisory board members the opportunity to come together and discuss how to help families experiencing homelessness and how to prevent other families from having to experience it at all.

Homelessness is never acceptable and it’s distressing to think of families experiencing it. The good news is that there is local and national attention on the issue! On February 9-11, hundreds of people across the nation – including people from North Carolina and the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH) – gathered in Oakland, California to share best practices on ending homelessness. The conference included many seminars and trainings – some of the topics covered this year were:

  • Updates and training for Rapid Re-Housing,
  • Addressing family homelessness in rural areas,
  • Housing for survivors of domestic violence,
  • Serving young parents,
  • Addressing substance abuse challenges of homeless families,
  • An update on Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to end homelessness and how it relates to families,
  • and ending homelessness for veterans and their families.

This conference is  important because our nation has seen an increase in family homelessness in recent years due to foreclosures while many families, struggling from month to month to make ends meet during a time of high unemployment and great economic uncertainty, live at imminent risk of homelessness. According to last year’s Point in Time Count in Asheville and Buncombe,  101 adults and children were identified as being part of a family – that means that 1 out every 5 people (or 20%) counted were in a family.

At the conference, community leaders highlighted examples of opportunities that they embraced in their efforts to end homelessness. These included reaching out to landlords to provide affordable housing, connecting families experiencing homelessness with long-term benefits such as SSI or SSDI through SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery), and using data collected through HMIS to better evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts to end homelessness and adjust our actions accordingly.

Lastly and importantly, nation-wide success were celebrated at the conference – such as the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) which focuses on preventing homelessness for households at imminent risk of losing their housing. HPRP has also successfully helped move families back into housing immediately if they do become homeless so that homelessness does not become a way of life for them. In fact, new HEARTH Act legislation builds on the success of HPRP and challenges communities to reach the goal of housing families within 30 days.

The information provided at the conference, as well as local successes, has significant impact for our community and our efforts to end family homelessness. As we learn about nation-wide evidence based practices, we can adopt methods that we may not have tried or adjust our existing efforts as necessary to ensure that no family has to experience homelessness.

If you’re interested in learning more about family homelessness, check out this fact sheet from USICH which explains family homelessness and how Opening Doors is responding.

Visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ blog for information on how to view the materials from the conference. (Updated February 25, 2011)

Ending Homelessness: The VA Summit February 7, 2011

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The Charles George VA Medical Center and the Homeless Initiative hosted a summit on veteran homelessness this past Friday, February 4, 2011.

As we have mentioned in previous entries, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness made ending homelessness among veterans a key priority in Opening Doors, the strategic federal plan to end homelessness. In response, the VA produced a 5-Year Plan to end veteran homelessness.

The Charles George VA Medical center serves twenty counties in our local area, including Buncombe County, and is eager to implement the 5-Year Plan to end homelessness among veterans. To that end, on Friday, over forty individuals from the VA, community agencies and non-profits, and veterans experiencing homelessness came together at the Charles George VA Medical Center to discuss the 5-Year Plan and what it looks like in our community.

By partnering with the Homeless Initiative, the group was able to place an emphasis on synchronizing the objectives of Opening Doors, the Federal 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness with the objectives of the 5-Year Plan and to build on the successful partnerships and outcomes that have arisen from the implementation of Asheville-Buncombe’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

The Summit was an exciting an event, showcasing the wonderful spirit of collaboration that our community excels at and creating actionable ways for community partners to continue this collaboration moving forward.

Participants at the Summit broke into groups to discuss homelessness as it relates to the following strategic areas of focus:

  • Community Partnerships
  • Housing and Supportive Services
  • Employment Income and Benefits
  • Treatment, and
  • Homeless Prevention and Outreach.

As a result of the participation by a wide variety of agencies and individuals, the summit resulted in the identification of best practices, needs, and ways to strengthen the community’s response to homelessness among veterans.

The VA’s summit on homelessness provided a opportunity for us to come together and show how creative and effective we can be when we put our minds and experience together. As a result of the VA Summit, we are now on track for identifying the action steps necessary to meet the strategic areas of focus for the 5-Year Plan. To build on the momentum of Friday’s event, the Homeless Initiative is hosting a community-wide summit on homelessness. We’ll review action steps, identified during the VA Summit and broaden planning to include everyone in the community who is experiencing homelessness.

All community members interested in joining the efforts to end homelessness are welcome to attend, so mark your calendar now and we’ll update you on the details over the next few weeks!

Together we can, and do, make a difference!

Also! Check out this article on the VA Summit from the Citizen-Times!

Today, we remember December 22, 2010

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Today we remember and join together to End Homelessness to honor

those who died while homeless in our community last year.

Jessey Aaron

Mike Anderson

Nolan Trent Baker

Mike Dashkevich

Roy Davis

James Deleza

Mick Everall

Jeff Grubb

Jeanine Guzalak

Rhonda Horton

Tami Leaven

Cristina Luther

Michael McColum

Colleen Overman

Lisa Pickens

John Seltz

Ricky Smith

D. Whitaker

Lee Allen Woody

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day: 12/21-12/22 December 16, 2010

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Join us in commemorating the lives of those who died while experiencing homelessness this year.

Our annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial observance will be held on December 21 through December 22 and will provide an opportunity for our community to grieve for those we lost in 2010 and to show support for people in Asheville-Buncombe who are currently experiencing homelessness as well as support for the agencies that work to end homelessness for all.

We will open our reflection on December 21st, the longest night of the year, with a candlelight vigil in Pritchard Park at 5PM.

  • The vigil will be led by the Church of the Advocate. Free tea and coffee will be provided by local vendors.
  • To show support, local businesses and neighbors will burn a candle or put a poster up for the night.  If you plan to do this, be sure to contact us and let us know!   The poster can be downloaded here.
  • UPDATE – Click HERE to read the Citizen Times article with photos about the vigil.

On December 22nd the Haywood Street Congregation will host reflection and a memorial.

  • The Haywood Street Church will open its doors and sanctuary at 9AM for reflection. There will be a free community lunch at 11:30 and a Memorial Services at 12:30 that will provide an opportunity for us to share our memories of those who passed on in 2010 and to honor their lives.  The Haywood St. Congregation is located at 297 Haywood Street at the corner of Haywood Street & Patton Ave. in Downtown Asheville.
  • Community members can donate coats, hats, jackets, and blankets for people experiencing homelessness at the church that day.

On any given night, over 500 individuals are without a home in our community. Those who experience homelessness are at a much greater risk of injury and death than their housed counterparts. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, those without housing are 3-4 times more likely to die prematurely than those with housing. The average age of death for those experiencing homelessness is around 50 years in contrast to the average of 78 years for the rest of the population. Deaths among those without housing are often the consequence of inadequate access to healthcare, hate crimes and exposure to harsh weather.

We hope you will join us in commemorating the lives of those who died while homeless in 2010.  So far, we have learned of 19 people who have died this past year. If you know of someone, please contact us so that we can read their name during the memorial.

There are still opportunities to volunteer and help with the service, if interested contact Katherine at  the Homeless Initiative (kmccrory@ashevillenc.gov)

Awareness Week Recap November 23, 2010

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National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week was a great success in Asheville and Buncombe County this year. During the week of November 14-20 2010, the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative raised awareness about homelessness, dispelled myths, and talked with the community about existing efforts to end homelessness. Through our partnership with AB Tech, UNCA, Warren-Wilson College, Buncombe County Schools and Libraries, Asheville City Schools and Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café, we were able to reach people throughout the Asheville-Buncombe area.

The week started with a proclamation by City Council, acknowledging the importance of the week. The proclamation was accepted by Homeless Initiative Staff and staff from UNCA’s Key Center, which worked with students on a food drive and other awareness raising activities throughout the week.

AB Tech’s Holly Library featured a display at the entrance of their library for over two weeks that included facts about homelessness and suggestions for related media (books, movies and more). Librarians reported that anywhere from 800-1000 visitors passed by the display each day, leading to requests for information and conversation about homelessness.

Along with AB Tech, UNCA’s Ramsey Library, Buncombe County Libraries, the City of Asheville all featured interactive displays. Filled with information and resources, the displays also prompted individuals to write their thoughts or feelings about homelessness and hang them on the display for others to read and think about.

 

Buncombe County and Asheville School staff were excited to join us too. They created a list of facts about homelessness available to over forty schools through the Buncombe County website, while the school librarians distributed a list of books about homelessness used by students and teachers to help during classroom discussions and activities.  Students asked each other questions like: “When you went to bed last night, did you have a snack? Did you have a comfortable, safe place to sleep? What is it like to be hungry, or not have a place to call home?” By doing so, our local schools enabled thousands of children to be educated on a very important topic.

To bring the information alive for older students, the Homeless Initiative was pleased to engage in a dialogue about the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness during a panel discussion hosted by Warren-Wilson College.

Another engaging dialogue on homelessness took place at Malaprop’s. The dialogue was on The Soloist by Steve Lopez, which was selected by Homeless Initiative Facebook fans as the book for the community read.  Everyone at the discussion was so interested in the event that additional discussions and book-reads on the issue of homelessness are now being planned.  To further illuminate the story of The Soloist, UNCA’s Key Center held a movie screening of The Soloist for about 20 students and community members who turned out and made pledges to end homelessness.

The first step towards ending homelessness is to help grow people’s knowledge and, in Asheville-Buncombe this year, we accomplished that over this year’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness week. Thanks to everyone who helped out and joined in!

To learn more about the Homeless Initiative and how you can get involved, visit our website or Facebook page.

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