In response to letters printed recently and many others over the last six months or so regarding the history at 610 Haywood Road, the address shared by Firestorm [Books & Coffee] and Kairos West, I believe there needs to be a little more understanding in the public square about activities and effects on the neighborhood and community.
Firestorm cooperative hosts The Steady Collective; Steady Collective gives out needles. Kairos West hosts 12 Baskets; 12 Baskets gives out food. Firestorm cafe is a cooperative bookstore, cafe and community center; they also, according to their website, support anarchist thought and culture. Kairos West is a community center located below Firestorm Books; they are an initiative of The Cathedral of All Souls, an Episcopal church in Biltmore Village.
I have lived off of Haywood Road for the last 15 years and have run a business for the last seven in close proximity to 610 Haywood Road. There have been negative impacts that seem to be in direct correlation with the services offered by the above groups. Needles discarded throughout the neighborhood, not to mention the sandboxes and play areas of two nearby schools. Human feces where it shouldn’t be. People using and selling drugs in public view and at times in broad daylight. Aggressive behavior and violent fights. Panhandlers walking directly out of 12 Baskets and leaning into windows of cars stopped for the traffic light at State Street and Haywood Road. Threatening and aggressive behavior toward neighbors and pedestrians. A squatters’ camp allowed to flourish on-site with de facto permission from the abovementioned groups. Individuals have been verbally threatened and/or had property damaged just for asking someone to not smoke that, inject that or make a drug deal there, or pee here or park where it’s clearly marked not to park.
Firestorm Books, The Steady Collective, Kairos West and 12 Baskets all have admirable goals and objectives. The doing of good deeds does not allow them the right to do as they please. The city has laws and rules designed to help us all get along with each other. When a community organization or business opens, there are agreed-upon uses for the premises that gain a permit from the city. When the agreed-upon use is changed or deviated from, and that change impacts the neighborhood negatively, the city and greater community need to stand up and hold those in charge accountable.
The abovementioned organizations have encouraged their supporters from near and far to write letters and make phone calls to support their cause. When a “community” meeting was scheduled over the summer to talk about the impact on the neighborhood, those allowed to speak were stacked with a disproportionate amount of supporters of these organizations. Some of the speakers and attendees in support of Firestorm and Kairos West were from other counties, towns and cities, let alone one woman from New Orleans! There have been posts on social media by supporters, not the organizations, threatening boycotts and aggression toward businesses who’ve spoken up about negative impacts they have experienced.
Encouraging supporters to saturate and spin opinion is a natural defensive reaction to something you believe in being threatened. I and many others do not have the time and or energy to write a letter every week to this or any other local publication expressing our experiences or opinions. Myself and many others have been negatively impacted by the changes that I believe originate from some of those seeking the services offered at 610 Haywood Road. These negative effects seem to be disregarded in the public discussion surrounding these organizations.
I hope that we all can become better neighbors and find acceptable resolutions to the issues we have. In light of some of the egregious acts of violence and destruction locally and nationally in what appears to be partisan absolutism, I look forward to a time with more civil discourse. This is all getting a little too crazy.
— John Root