Despite near-freezing temperatures and gusty winds the night of Jan. 25, Asheville city staff and volunteers trudged throughout Buncombe County with the goal of counting every homeless resident. Emily Ball, the city’s homeless services lead, will present an update on that effort, known as the Point in Time Count, to members of Asheville City Council Tuesday, Feb. 8.
According to a presentation available before the meeting, 527 people were recorded as homeless during the same count in January 2021, down from 547 in 2020. However, the number of unsheltered people, or those not living in one of Buncombe County’s homeless shelters or transitional housing programs, increased from 65 in 2020 to 116 in 2021.
This year’s count, assisted by 48 volunteers on 16 teams, will reflect data from Asheville’s shelters, transitional housing and streets. Beyond the raw number of unhoused residents, the count records demographic data such as veteran status, domestic violence involvement, disabilities and history of homelessness. The survey also asks unsheltered people where they were from, how long they have been in Asheville and what brought them to the city. Preliminary results from this year’s count are anticipated in March.
On Feb. 3, the city launched a Point in Time dashboard, which displays information on homeless residents broken down by sheltered status, race and other demographics. The dashboard will be updated with new data in the spring.
In other news
Council will hear an update on the city’s Neighborhood Grants Program, which was launched in September and allocated $200,000 to support neighborhood goals, creative projects, public safety and civic participation. According to a Jan. 31 press release, the city has so far selected 15 neighborhood organizations to receive matching grants of up to $5,000 each. A second application window will open in spring 2022.
Council will also conduct its first reading of a request from Blue Ridge Rickshaw to run a pedal bicycle taxi service in the city. According to a staff report available before the meeting, the service is classified as a slow-moving vehicle operation and will only be allowed to operate on streets with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. Council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended approval of the request in January.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A contract amendment with Responder Support Services approving an additional $120,000 for mental health services for members of Asheville’s fire and police departments, bringing the total amount to $296,000. The staff report on the item notes that the AFD and APD need for behavioral health support has steadily increased over the past year.
- A resolution celebrating 2022 as Black Legacy Month to celebrate “the rich and diverse cultures of Black and African American people, to raise awareness about our shared history, to recognize the truth must come before reconciliation and to acknowledge the important contributions that Black and African American people have made to our community and our nation.”
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to enter into a contract of nearly $214,000 with South Carolina-based Encore Technology Group to design and install audiovisual systems for the city’s emergency operations center, located in a public safety station at 316 Broadway St. The site, currently under construction, will also contain Fire Station 13, a police substation and a small community conference room. Work is expected to be completed in December.
The meeting will be livestreamed starting at 5 p.m. through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-280, meeting code 9089.
Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance online or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. Feb. 8. City staff will use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting. Speakers will need to listen to the meeting via phone by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 9089.
Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9089; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilFeb82022@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.