Asheville City Council will vote on funding to support 45 existing — as well as 43 new — high-access shelter beds. If approved, the Salvation Army will receive 20 new beds, as will Safe Shelter. Haywood Street Congregation will receive the remaining three. All funding for the project would come from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The recommendations follow a Jan. 25 joint meeting of Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, where the National Alliance to End Homelessness presented a report, which aims to reduce the number of local unsheltered individuals by half.
In the presentation, Ann Olivia, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, noted that Asheville is experiencing an ongoing homelessness crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic and climbing housing costs. While overall homeless numbers trended down this year, unsheltered counts remain higher than pre-pandemic figures, with 171 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Buncombe County, according to the presentation.
While this is down 26% from 2021, it is still 163% higher than pre-pandemic numbers.
Among the Alliance’s recommendations was a call for 95 new beds — 60 beds for single adults in immediate and low-barrier shelter; 25 beds for enhanced shelter programs with mental health and substance use specialists onsite; and 10 beds serving families with children.
If approved, the city would enter an interlocal agreement with Buncombe County, with each of the two municipalities allocating $875,000 of their ARPA funding to support the initiative. It is estimated that the funds will support the new shelter beds for a period of 15 months. After the 15 month period, more funding will need to be identified.
In other news
The city will have a second reading of the proposed panhandling ordinance updates. Council previously approved the two technical amendments to Asheville’s panhandling ordinance at its Aug. 22 meeting. The first amendment added new language specifying that solicitors must be at least 8 feet away from “transit stops” (such as bus stops or busy medians) as well as “individuals who have made a negative response” to their solicitation attempts. The second amendment provided an exception to the existing ordinance that exempts persons who are soliciting from family members and mutual acquaintances.
The city’s panhandling laws were initially discussed during a July 25, Environment and Safety Committee meeting. Council members Maggie Ullman, Sandra Kilgore and Sheneika Smith are part of the three-member committee. At the meeting, members proposed additional, more substantive amendments, including regulations around drivers giving money and other resources to panhandlers.
While it was expected that these new regulations would be discussed at the upcoming council meeting, neither the agenda nor any of the presented city documents reflect ordinance changes beyond the technical amendments previously approved.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a three-year contract with Daupler for after-hours/emergency answering services for the water department. If approved, the provider will be able to answer calls and dispatch responders more quickly in the event of a water outage or line break.
- A resolution of intent to permanently close an excess right of way adjacent to 100 Craven St.and to set a public hearing for Tuesday, Oct 10. The owner of 9999 Hazel Mill Road requested this closure to develop a five story multi-family dwelling with 23-30 units.
- A resolution authorizing the city manager to accept a $3,000 grant from the N.C. Recreation and Park Association for a Parks and Recreation department diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. If approved, the funds will be used to support the development of an equity core team within the department.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 8410.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 8410; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilSept122023@publicinput.com until 9 a.m. on Sep 12. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.