homeless advocates from Asheville visited Washington, D.C. to attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) annual conference and meet with legislators about homeless issues to advocate for funding that invests in solutions to homelessness at the local level.
Brian Alexander and Angela Denio of Homeward Bound, Robin Merrell of Pisgah Legal Services, and Amy Sawyer of the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative attended the NAEH conference, networking with homeless service providers and advocates from across the nation, learning best practices and innovative ideas to implement in Asheville, and connecting with policy developers from national organizations.
In addition to attending the conference, the group met with legislators to update them on Asheville’s success in ending homelessness, notably reducing occurrences of chronic homelessness from 293 in 2005 to 75 in 2011. Chronic homelessness is defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as experiencing homelessness for one year or more or four times in a 3-year period and with a disabling condition. Chronically homeless individuals are often the most difficult to serve and the costliest to the community in terms of consumption of public resources. Due to the coordinated efforts of Looking Homeward: the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Asheville & Buncombe County, implemented by agencies like Homeward Bound and Pisgah Legal Services, Asheville’s chronically homeless population has been reduced by 75% in the past 6 years and overall homeless population has been reduced from 689 in 2005 to 498 in 2011.
Alexander, Denio, Merrell, and Sawyer shared this information with the offices of Senators Burr and Hagan, as well as Representative Shuler, asking them to continue to invest in demonstrated solutions to homelessness by voting to fund the McKinney-Vento Act at the top level of $2.4 billion. The McKinney-Vento Act was initially enacted in 1987 and is the primary source of funding for homeless programs in the United States. A component of the McKinney-Vento Act is its Continuum of Care funding, which brings over $1 million to Asheville & Buncombe County’s homeless service providers annually. In addition to reducing occurrences of all types of homelessness, Looking Homeward: the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Asheville & Buncombe County set a specific goal to end chronic homelessness here by 2015. Homeward Bound and Pisgah Legal Services, in conjunction with other local agencies, have been committed to carrying out that mission since it began and remain dedicated to its success.