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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!

Data Counts! The 2011 Point in Time Count January 25, 2011

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You may have heard that 600 individuals experience homelessness on any given night in our community. Have you ever wondered where that figure comes from?

This number reflects an estimate derived from the annual Point in Time Count. This year the count takes place on Wednesday, January 26th. Staff from homeless agencies, volunteers, and people who are experiencing homelessness will work together to count everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness on the night of January 26th.

In addition to shelters and other housing programs, the Buncombe County Department of Social Services, Buncombe County Jail, police from Asheville, Montreat, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Woodfin, and Weaverville, the Mission Hospital, the Charles George VA Medical Center, United Way’s 2-1-1, and agencies that provide crisis services to people in our community will help with the count.

Data collected during the count includes demographic information, causes of homelessness, where people are sleeping, and information about chronic homelessness, veteran status, and other subpopulation data. The count will include individuals and families staying outside, in shelters, and in other housing programs for people experiencing homelessness.

This year, the count will take extra care to include unaccompanied children and families, as well as people who are at risk of homelessness, including those experiencing:

  • Imminent Homelessness – An individual or family who is currently housed and is being evicted, asked to leave or needs to leave for another reason and who is expected to lose their housing within a week and lacks the resources to obtain or maintain housing.
  • Precarious Housing – An individual or family who is currently housed and is being evicted, asked to leave, or needs to leave for another reason and may or may not have the resources needed to obtain or maintain housing.

Asheville-Buncombe’s Point in Time Count is part of a national count. The Point in Time Count process will be used as the primary data source for federal agencies to understand homelessness trends and track progress against the goals and objectives contained in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. Additionally, the Congressionally-mandated Annual Homeless Assessment Report is prepared using Point in Time and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data.

Throughout the year, data is collected by agencies in Asheville-Buncombe using HMIS. Agencies with accurate and valid data in the system will be able to pull their Point in Time Count from HMIS. This is a significant step forward for our community because it means that data in the HMIS system is now sufficient for evaluation and reporting.

We place a lot of importance on data collection and for good reason! The 10-Year Plan depends on accurate, timely data to inform our decisions and help us understand how effective our actions have been. The Point in Time Count is one of several measures (we’ll be looking at these later on) our community uses to evaluate homelessness and evaluate trends that we can respond to.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the results of this year’s Point in Time Count!  And remember! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Ending Homelessness – Veterans and the 5-Year Plan- UPDATED December 10, 2010

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As we have discussed previously, homelessness is the experience of being without stable housing and, as such, it affects an incredibly diverse range of people. This diversity necessitates a closer look so as to better understand issues and determine best-practices for ending homelessness. Today we’re going to look at homelessness among veterans.

Only 8% of the general population can claim veteran status yet veterans make up 1/5 of the homeless population in the United States. This means that homelessness among veterans is more than double the rate of homelessness among the general homeless population. The issues facing veterans are, in many ways, similar to those of non-veterans (lack of affordable housing, lack of a support system, not having a livable income or access to health care, etc). Veterans, however, are made more vulnerable to homelessness due to the physical and psychiatric disabilities that many face after active service. In Asheville-Buncombe during 2009, the regional VA served 457 veterans experiencing homelessness.

For many, it is unconscionable to allow men and women who have risked their lives for our country to be without a home and, in response, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has made ending homelessness among veterans a priority in “Opening Doors“, the federal strategic plan to end homelessness. As part of this federal partnership and strategic plan, the VA produced a 5-Year Plan to address homelessness among veterans and end it by 2014. VA Secretary Eric Shineski explains the plan this way: “If we want to end veteran homelessness, we must attack the entire downward spiral that ends in homelessness… We must offer education and jobs, treat depression and fight substance abuse, prevent suicides and provide safe housing.” The VA is focused on “the three P’s” – Prevention, Partnerships and Perseverance to stay the course along with community partners until the last veteran is off the street.

Through the 5-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the VA will expand existing programs and develop new initiatives to prevent veterans from entering into homelessness and to treat those who are currently homeless. This will be done by:

  • Increasing the number and variety of housing options including permanent, transitional, contracted, community-operated and VA-operated housing.
  • Providing more supportive services through partnerships to prevent homelessness, improve employability and increase independent living for veterans.
  • Improving access to VA and community based mental health, substance abuse and supportive services.

In response to this federal leadership, the Charles George VA Medical Center, which serves 20 counties in Western North Carolina, is currently implementing the plan using six key strategies listed in bold below, along with a few examples of resources offered to veterans in Asheville and Buncombe County:

  • Outreach & Education: A 24/7 hotline for those experiencing a housing crisis and/or in need of information about veteran services at 1.877.4AIDVET.
  • Treatment: The Homeless Veteran Dental Initiative which helps veterans involved in the Grant and Per Diem Program get the dental care they need.
  • Prevention: The Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative which is just getting started and will work with incarcerated veterans and veterans facing charges in court.
  • Housing & Supportive Services: The Charles George VA Medical Center has partnerships with the ABCCM Veteran’s Quarters and FIRST at Blue Ridge to offer transitional housing programs for veterans who are experiencing homelessness through the Grant and Per Diem Program. Also, the VA is moving towards the Housing First model with the HUD-VASH program which pairs housing vouchers and supportive services to offer permanent, supportive housing to veterans and their families.
  • Income/Employment: Compensated Work Therapy targets veterans experiencing chronic unemployment, homelessness and who are diagnosed with persistent alcohol and/or drug addiction.
  • Community Partnerships: The VA has representatives that take part in the Homeless Coalition in order to share information and promote data and resource sharing.

While the VA, The Veteran’s Quarter and its sister program, the Steadfast House, work specifically to address the unique needs of veterans experiencing homelessness in our community, there are many more organizations, faith groups and volunteers that work to support veterans in the Asheville-Buncombe community. During our conversation with Allison Bond of the VA, she noted that it is the community-wide support of veterans, people experiencing homelessness, the Homeless Coalition and the successful implementation of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness that has enabled the George Charles VA to implement its 5-Year Plan and to see such success with it in a short time-span.

To learn more about veterans experiencing homelessness or if you are a veteran without housing, contact Allison Bond at the VA Medical Center by calling (828).298.7911 ext 15506. You can also find more information on the VA Facebook page.

As always, you can learn more about homelessness in Asheville-Buncombe by visiting our website and our Facebook page.

Housing First November 30, 2010

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In yesterday’s entry, Our Goals: End and Prevent Homelessness, we provided a basic definition of homelessness as a way of bring everyone to a common understanding from which a larger conversation about homelessness can emerge. Today we’d like to offer a definition of an intervention model that the Asheville-Buncombe’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness is based on: Housing First.

In addressing housing instability, our community works to offer unique combinations of housing-centric financial assistance and supports for people who are experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. For some this may mean help with two month’s rent and landlord advocacy to prevent eviction while for others it may mean long-term support while the household works with a case manager to obtain social security income because of a disability.

These combinations of financial assistance and support fall under the Housing First model. A recent post from the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) helps explain further what housing first is and why we use this model as we work to end homelessness:

Why Housing First?

Early last week, the staff at the Alliance had a messaging meeting where a staff member shared with us the frustrations of people he’s been meeting on the field. With the recession in high gear and people in dire need of help, why – advocates and providers asked – why were we not endorsing the rapid construction of temporary shelters?

And then I saw this article on my good friend Shannon’s change.org blog.

So I thought the timing was right to ask: Why Housing First?

But first: What is Housing First?

Housing First is a concept that was pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis of the NYU School of Medicine and an organization in New York called Pathways to Housing.

The premise of the Housing First campaign is that housing is a basic human right and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their habits or circumstances. Housing First prescribes providing the homeless permanent supportive housing – which includes supportive services coupled with permanent housing (not shelter). The supportive services address addiction, mental health, case management and the like, and provides stability for homeless individuals. These services increase the ability of homeless individuals to maintain permanent housing and achieve self-sufficiency.

It’s important to note that this approach is a significant departure from the traditional way the country approached homelessness before. In the old system, homelessness management was emphasized through shelter, mental health services, medical services, and the like before permanent housing was even considered an option. The premise of this old program was that homeless people had to “earn” permanent housing – an unintentionally patronizing framework. Housing First, as the name suggests, emphasizes housing first, coupled with services, bypassing shelter altogether.

Why Housing First?

Put simply: it works. Studies have shown that those communities who implement Housing First strategies have successfully helped people achieve self-sufficiency and get out of homelessness.

In May of this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story about some of the successes the Housing First model has seen in the last few years:

“To cite two: 85 percent of formerly homeless adults have maintained a permanent home after five years in the organization Beyond Shelter’s housing-first program in Los Angeles. And in Pathways to Housing’s program for formerly homeless people with psychiatric disabilities in New York City, 88 percent have been able to maintain a permanent home, compared with only 47 percent of the residents in the city’s traditional program.”

In fact, between 2005 and 2007, the nation saw a nearly 30 percent decrease in the chronic homelessness population, much of which has been attributed to the Housing First approach.

Not only does it work, but it’s cost-effective for the chronically homeless population. While people tend to shy away from the Housing First model over claims of high overhead costs, it turns out to be much more cost-efficient in the long run than temporary shelter.

Consider the cost of the average chronically homeless person in an urban area – say, New York City. Between accessing government services, emergency care at hospitals, run-ins with law enforcement, incarceration, and the like – the cost of an average chronically homeless to the state is quite high. Higher, it turns out, than the permanent supportive housing – which would not only provide the chronically homeless person the services he/she needs to better their well-being, but remove them from the streets altogether and place them in stable housing.

(I’ve cited this story before, but Malcolm Gladwell, of Blink, Tipping Point, and Outliers fame, wrote a story demonstrating just that called “Million Dollar Murray”.)

Housing First is a definitive, effective, and significant step for a systemic change in the way we approach homelessness – one that has been embraced by advocates and elected officials alike.

And that’s why Housing First.

For more about the Alliance’s take on Housing First – check out our website.

This post was authored by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The original posting from July 23, 2009 can be found on their blog, About Homelessness http://blog.endhomelessness.org.

Our Goal: End and Prevent Homelessness November 29, 2010

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November’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week helped us take a look at homelessness, including the myths surrounding homelessness in our community and how those myths impact our perceptions. Thinking about homelessness can be mysterious and overwhelming, so it helps to come together and talk about what it means. We are excited about the dialogue that has emerged and happy to offer the community some common definitions to use as we continue our dialogues on homelessness.

First, what is homelessness? The answer is beguilingly simple: homelessness is the experience of not having a home.

To be specific, the federal definition, as set out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), describes the situation of any individual or family who, for various reasons, has found it necessary to live in emergency shelters or transitional housing for some period of time. This category also includes unsheltered persons who sleep in places not meant for human habitation (for example: streets, parks, abandoned buildings, cars and tunnels) and who may also use shelters on an intermittent basis.

Another important definition is “imminent risk of homelessness”, which describes the situation of persons who are “couch-surfing” (staying temporarily with friends), temporarily living in a hotel, or even living in housing that they will have to leave due to eviction or lack of resources.

As you can see, the emphasis is on a lack of stable housing. This means that homelessness can, and does, affect a wide range of people. This is, in part, what makes ending homelessness a complex and evolving process.

Asheville-Buncombe’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness has in its mission to end chronic homelessness and, moving forward, respond quickly and efficiently to individuals and families if they do experience a housing crisis so that homelessness does not become a way of life for anyone.

And we’re not alone. State and National organizations such as the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH), the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness recognize the importance of applying community interventions that focus on housing as a means to ending homelessness and offer communities such as ours with best-practices research and the recently released Opening Doors, the federal plan to end homelessness.

Ending homelessness will not happen overnight and it cannot happen without your help! Visit our website for more information on how you can get involved.

Are you experiencing homelessness or have you in the past? Do you know someone who is experiencing homelessness or who has previously? We’d love to hear from you. It is your stories that need to be heard and we hope that you will consider sharing them with us.

Have you visited our Facebook page? There is a lot of great stuff on there. Why not head over and have a look?

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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