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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

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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: 2011 Point in Time Count in the news! January 28, 2011

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Our annual Point in Time Count took place on January 26, 2011 and it was featured on WLOS! Check out the story by clicking the link below!

Asheville. NC :: Absolute Le – Homelessness By The Numbers.

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.

Tips For Volunteers December 30, 2010

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This time of year brings special holidays that offer many people time for celebration and reflection. With the turn of the year, people often take time to stop and reflect on their lives – what they enjoy and what they’d like to change. As well, good experiences over the holidays and the realization that at the end of the celebrations, many people have a safe, warm place to call home can lead to a sense of re-commitment to those who are not as fortunate.

Perhaps this is why we get a lot of people contacting us here at the Homeless Initiative during the holidays asking how they can help. We are happy to say that there are hundreds of different opportunities for community members. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here is a creative list of what you could do to help those experiencing homelessness, developed by Earth Systems. Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness has some great tips.

Volunteers have done everything from help serve a single meal to serving at Project Connect to joining a mentoring program with a team, helping a family settle into new housing and stabilize their lives. There is something for everyone and, often, the single most important things volunteers take away from the experience is the one-on-one connection made with a person experiencing homelessness. It is those human connections that again and again have birthed the most amazing actions and commitment that support housing and the people seeking it in our community.

To learn about volunteer opportunities: Contact United Way’s Hands On: http://www.handsonasheville.org. At this site you can search for local opportunities by agency, category or volunteer job to find your perfect fit.

If you know of an agency or type of agency that you’d like to contact, United Way’s 2-1-1 Community Information Line can help you get that agency’s contact information – just dial “211” on your phone or visit their online database: http://www.211wnc.org.

If you’re considering donating goods, be sure to call ahead to agencies to find out what they need and when the best time to donate is. If you’re planning on volunteering, here are some things to consider:

Know your strengths (and your limits).

Not all volunteer jobs are suited to everyone and that’s okay! Give some thought to where you think you could be most useful and chat with volunteer coordinators at different agencies to learn what opportunities exist. Your communication can help agencies offer better opportunities and can help you know more about what works for you!

Be open to new things!

It’s okay to be nervous, especially if you’re doing something totally new to you, and you might just discover that you love it! Being flexible not only helps the people you’re volunteering for, but it can teach you a lot about yourself.

Be consistent and considerate.

It takes a lot of effort to coordinate volunteer efforts and you can aid in the process by honoring your obligations by showing up on-time and with a positive attitude. Remember that the people you’re there to help are having a rough time and a smile from a stranger can mean a lot. It’s not always easy or elegant work, but it’s important work.

Lastly, be available!

Certainly the winter months pose significant challenges for people experiencing homelessness and the agencies serving them are glad that people want to help. But don’t forget that agencies need your help year-round. Their needs may shift slightly throughout the year and, by volunteering beyond the holiday season, you may find new volunteer opportunities that you adore!

You can make a difference now and you can make a difference year-round. Together we can end homelessness! To find the information detailed in this blog and more about volunteering and donating in our community, visit the Homeless Initiative website.

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)

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