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Housing Matters December 3, 2010

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Homelessness is a huge topic so when we talk about it, it’s not always easy to know where to begin. That doesn’t mean that having an honest and constructive dialogue about a big topic like homelessness needs to be confusing, threatening or overwhelming!

In fact, we’re happy to lead the way and start talking about the issues that matter. The Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative’s social media project offers us a great platform as we take an honest accessible look at housing stability and homelessness in our community and answer questions like:

  • What does housing stability mean to people?
  • What resources and solutions exist to address the varied aspects of a housing crisis in our community?
  • What are some outcomes of our efforts to end homelessness?
  • And, very importantly, how can people get involved?

To get started, over the coming month, we will delve into the experiences of mothers, fathers, siblings and children who have lived, worked and even fought for our country and who have experienced a housing crisis to better understand the impact of homelessness in the Asheville-Buncombe community. You’ll hear about successes and, sadly, you’ll also hear about the stories of people who have lost their lives while experiencing homelessness as we come together for the 2010 Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service.

Stay updated on upcoming Homeless Initiative events by checking our Facebook page, our Twitter feed and the Events page of our website.

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Homeless dialogue based on The Soloist November 17, 2010

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2010's National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week is November 14-20. As part of the scheduled events, participants attended a discussion at Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe about the book The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

More than 10 agency representatives, community members and people experiencing homelessness came out for the community book discussion based on The Soloist by Steve Lopez at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café on November 16, 2010.

The book discussion was held as part of the scheduled events for National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week (November 14-20). The week is designed to raise awareness of homelessness in order to dispel myths that homelessness is someone else’s problem and to help people learn about how to join in the community’s work to end homelessness.

The Soloist is a book about a journalist who meets a talented musician who is experiencing homelessness, the relationship they form and the challenges they face as the musician struggles to find and maintain housing. By reading a common book, everyone had a similar framework with which to begin a conversation about homelessness and hunger. We couldn’t have been more pleased at how this worked out! The conversation began around some of the themes of The Soloist and quickly turned into a remarkable exchange of ideas, stories and experiences.

Ending homelessness is a collaborative effort and events like the book discussion promote community-wide dialogue, create approaches and vital insights from a diverse group of people.

During the book discussion, many participants expressed the need for more one-on-one interactions between people from all walks of life as a way to minimize isolation and mistrust and create more comprehensive, effective responses. This need has also been a topic at the Homeless Initiative as we try to find creative ways to bring people together to develop networks of support and action that alleviate the impact homelessness has on everyone in the community.

Recently we’ve explored using social media as a tool to bridge communication gaps. Participants in the discussion suggested that social media could be used to share the stories and experiences of people experiencing homelessness to a much wider audience and, by doing so, help to combat the many myths that surround homelessness and set the stage for a more comprehensive and productive dialogue about how we can end homelessness.

National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week isn’t over yet! UNCA is holding a food drive all this week to benefit the Family Resource Center at Emma and tomorrow at 7pm in the UNCA Humanities Lecture Hall is a FREE screening of The Soloist. Hope to see you all there!

The Homeless Initiative cannot do what we do without your participation and input. If you have an idea for an event, how to get people involved or if you want to learn more generally, please contact us. We love hearing from you! You can also learn more about the going’s on at the Homeless Initiative by checking out our Facebook page.

Calendar of events for National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week November 9, 2010

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For communities across the country, November 14th-20th is National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week!  Join us for dialogue, a food drive, a movie, and a community-read of The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

Below is a calendar of upcoming events:

November 9, 5PM, City Hall (2nd Floor) City Council Proclaims that November 14-20, 2010 is National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week in Asheville, NC.

November 14-20, UNCA Campus Food Drive – all food will be donated to the Emma Family Resource Center

November 16, 3PM, Malaprops Bookstore Community read-in and discussion of The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

November 16, 5:30pm, Gladfelter Building, Warren Wilson College Looking Homeward: 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness Panel Discussion

November 17, 7pm, UNCA Justice Center UNCA Women’s Basketball Game and Food Drive, tickets start at $6 for general admission.

November 18, 7pm, UNCA Humanities Lecture Hall Movie screening of The Soloist. FREE! Food Donations welcome.

Communities use National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness week to promote existing efforts to end hunger and homelessness while engaging the community in a dialogue that can lead to greater awareness and collaboration.

This year the theme is “Bringing America Home” so we’re asking people like you to bring a book home to learn about homelessness and then join us for community events to learn how you can join us ensuring that everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to call home.

We would love to have you, your colleagues, and your family participate in some of the events scheduled for the week.  Or, if you’re near a Buncombe County, AB Tech, UNCA, or Warren Wilson Library, stop in and ask the librarian about homelessness – they’re ready for you!

Project Connect 2010 Update October 29, 2010

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An excellent program …. Moved me to do more.”

On September 10, 2010 the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, in collaboration with the VA Stand Down, held the 4th annual Project Homeless Connect. This year was our best event yet!

Project Connect brings community-wide agencies together to provide services, information, and outreach to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness in order to provide them with the system of care that will help them move into or maintain stable housing.

“It was great to see so many people working together to help homeless people.”

For Asheville and Buncombe County, a community which prides itself on collaborating for the greater good and doing so in innovative ways, Project Connect is a perfect fit. The event not only helps people access housing, but is an opportunity for much more – it

  • Allows us to join together as a community to answer the needs of our neighbors,
  • Provides a space for innovation and creativity,
  • Fosters networking and collaboration among providers, businesses, faith groups and community members,
  • Offers a positive experience for everyone that is carried beyond the event,
  • Opens doors, creating new partnerships as we work together to end homelessness,
  • Honors the spirit of collaboration through our partnership with the VA Stand Down, a veteran-specific event that mirrors Project Connect.

“This is a truly rewarding experience. I appreciate the opportunity to participate. I think this is an event that everyone in our community would benefit from attending.”

Our collaboration and creativity allowed us to reach over 200  participants, 177 of which were documented in our HMIS database.

We couldn’t have done it without the efforts of over 65 volunteers, including 12 AmeriCorps and RSVP SeniorCorps volunteers who worked to help more than 50 community agencies represented at the event.

Project Connect was able to provide participants with services and supports such as: bus tickets that helped people get to and from the event and to follow-up appointments, housing information & applications, financial assistance, HIV & pregnancy tests, vision screenings,  foot care, substance abuse & mental health counseling, voter registration, haircuts, legal advice, employment & educational guidance, and pet care.

Furthermore, in an effort to support the City’s commitment to sustainability, all dining materials were recyclable and purchased from a local green vendor!

A special thank you to the participating agencies!

Feedback from participants:

“After talking with a teenage volunteer, he mentioned that his father is homeless. The young person expected to see his father at the event, hoping he knew about the services being offered. I had no idea that he had a close family member who was part of the homeless community. Just goes to show that homelessness can affect anyone and it’s even in places you might not expect.”

“I think what hit me again this year was the difficulty I had in differentiating participants from those volunteering and providing services. There is something about the change in terminology from homeless people to people experiencing homelessness that takes the labeling away. While I understand the need to categorize sometimes, homeless people sounds more like a charity perspective for people who are not like me, while people experiencing homelessness gives me the sense that people like me are having a challenge.”

Thank you again to everyone who turned out for Project Connect 2010! Your ongoing efforts to serve our community and end homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County are deeply appreciated.

Interested in helping with Project Connect 2011? Want to learn more about the Homeless Initiative? Want to volunteer at other events? Visit our website for more information on how to contact us!

You can see images of Project Connect 2010 on our Facebook page and on our Flikr account.

Book Selections for National Homeless Awareness Week! October 19, 2010

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National Homeless Awareness Week is November 14-20 and we have some special things planned! As part of our activities we’ll select a book about homelessness to read with the entire community.

And – we need your help!

Review the list below to help us select the perfect book for Asheville and Buncombe county schools, libraries, book clubs, and faith groups to read during National Homeless Awareness Week.

You can cast your vote by posting a comment on this blog post, or commenting at our Facebook page . Voting is open until October 29 and we’ll announce the winning book on November 1. So stay tuned!

We’ll be posting information about Homeless Awareness week and our community book reading event on here, the Homeless Initiative website, and our new Facebook page.

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homelessness to Harvard by Liz Murray

“In the harrowing tale of her childhood in the Bronx, [Liz] Murray’s straightforward and no-frills prose hits hard. …Regarding her parents’ [drug] addiction with the utmost benevolence, Murray tells of bearing the weighty burden of young protector to her obviously flailing parents, and eventually living on the streets when it was less unhappy—and perhaps safer—than staying at home. With no resources to speak of, she ultimately commits to high school and finds her prospects can be great. Neither sensationalizing nor soliciting pity, Murray’s generous account of and caring attitude toward her past are not only uplifting, but also a fascinating lesson in the value of dedication.” –From the Booklist review

Liz Murray’s story was made into a 2003 film starring Thora Birch called Homeless to Harvard.

Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America by Jonathan Kozol

“A horrifying, staggering book about the homeless in this country.  …The true heart of this book …rests on two points: the lack of affordable housing for the poor and, most tragically, the children who will become adults with little education, poor health, no marketable skills, and mental and emotional scars from spending a childhood under these conditions. Kozol’s writing is clear and reads easily due to his stark, unembellished style. It is always the people who shine through; they are a testament to the human spirit. It is impossible to read this book and remain untouched.” –From the School Library Journal Review

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

“…[Nathaniel] Ayers had been at Juilliard studying classical bass when he experienced the first in a series of schizophrenic episodes that turned his musical dreams into a nightmare. Now, worlds away from the concert halls he imagined gracing, Ayers spends his days on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, fighting off rats and drug-frenzied fellow homeless—and serenading passersby. …[Steve] Lopez [an LA Times columnist and novelist] quickly becomes an integral part of Ayers’ life…” –From the Booklist review

The Soloist was made into a 2009 film starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.

Are you interested in joining us or helping us during National Homeless Awareness Week?

Are you part of a book club who might want to read this book?

Would you like someone to give a presentation to your group about homelessness?

Contact the Homeless Initiative to learn more.

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