“Down and Out in Asheville: The Many Faces of Local Poverty”

Reams of text are regularly devoted to Asheville’s beer, food, arts, local businesses, architecture and natural beauty — as well as whatever new development City Council is considering this week that will, we’re told, either save or doom everything we hold dear about our hometown.

But a far more pressing topic is often completely ignored. Despite Asheville’s much-touted quality of life, one in five city residents lives below the federal poverty line — a number far exceeding both the national and state averages. Many more Ashevilleans must fight to get by, confronting underemployment, a severe lack of affordable housing and a high cost of living. Economic turmoil has further aggravated these problems, leaving many people struggling just to pay for basic food and shelter even as the social-service “safety net” faces considerable cuts.

“Down and Out in Asheville” was an attempt to redress that imbalance, in a small way, by focusing both on the larger problem and on individual city residents’ stories.

In researching it, however, I ran face first into the fact that many people here — including longtime friends — feel they can’t publicly discuss their own poverty, for reasons ranging from shame to endangering their jobs or living situation. Although the piece wound up spotlighting four residents’ diverse stories and outlooks, many, many more declined to speak.

Endemic poverty remains this city’s great unspoken secret. Forget the pretty pictures on the billboards: For far more residents, this is reality. — David Forbes, senior news reporter

“It's early Monday morning, and some 20 to 30 people stand clustered in front of the Eblen-Kimmel Charities, an off-white building tucked back near the West Asheville Sam's Club and the state lottery office. They are male and female, young and old, of differing ethnicities and races. Some carry purses or water bottles; others clasp forms closely to their chest or tap the rolled-up papers against the palm of one hand.”

To view the full story, visit http://avl.mx/1f.

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8 thoughts on ““Down and Out in Asheville: The Many Faces of Local Poverty”

  1. NotBasheville

    Exactly why it is so important to have the Living Wage folks in our town and to give them POSITIVE press.

  2. constancenow

    Everyone that shops at Walmart & other economic black holes can take a lot of the blame. By giving those types of companies your money you are paying them to ship and keep all Americas jobs overseas while they drive up prices and down quality.

    Take a look around in the stores and you will see where its all going… be conscious and support local biz that supports the local economy.

  3. Asheville Dweller

    Yes its all the big buisiness that pays crappy wages, lets blame them soley.

    What about all of the other hundreds of places that pay crappy wages in this town that are not a corp or big business?

  4. Asheville’s recent designation as one of the least favorable cities for jobs raises serious issues of what our leadership has been doing.
    Not to mention Advantage West and other entities whose job it is to promote business and economic diversity in our area.

    WTF??????, have they been actually doing??????

  5. constancenow

    If you want more jobs then take some initiative … start a business!

  6. bill smith

    [i]What about all of the other hundreds of places that pay crappy wages in this town that are not a corp or big business?[/i]

    Your arguments seem to have a tendency of completely missing the point. Is that intentional?

  7. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Looking at Asheville’s larger economic picture, perhaps we should pull back a bit on the “Keep Asheville Weird” stuff, which is generally fun and does draw some types of tourists and visitors, but significant potential employers looking for a stable and dedicated workforce shy away from places with reputations for head shops and tattoo parlors and anarchist tendencies.

    Asheville’s recent designation as one of the least favorable cities for jobs, as well as one in five of our residents living below the federal poverty level, is seriously troubling and might indicate that we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

    We need to raise our economic aspirations.

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