Letter: A stain on this town

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was myself homeless in July, constantly looking for spare rooms. Following a sudden housing loss, I moved a total of four times before finally returning to West Asheville, the site of a major ongoing zoning dispute. The city claims that the services that Steady Collective provides for 2.5 hours each week out of Firestorm [Books & Coffee] constitute a shelter.

But, in fact, Steady was responding to the proliferation of needle litter in West Asheville when they gained permission from the state to set up an exchange in 2016. As someone who led a racial justice group in Firestorm for 18 months with the syringe exchange immediately following my group, I call foul on the city for engaging in this aggressive, underhanded attempt to further gentrify West Asheville, which will most likely increase disease and even kill our neighbors, as they will no longer have access to clean needles, fentanyl test kits or overdose reversal kits.

Repeatedly, leaders in the black community would attend my group and call out the massive land grab in the Southside community, the vicious theft of The Block downtown, and the very many insidious ways the city has robbed the black community and left it increasingly traumatized, with scores of infants unnecessarily dead, an achievement gap that is through the roof, and an incarceration rate, jobless rate and life expectancy that is a stain on this town, the second-fastest gentrifying city in the nation.

I’ve met clients of Steady. Folks just want to live. Many are currently houseless. One kind man used to come into my former workplace and chat with me and my fellow baristas. Will he survive this? Knowing firsthand the stress of lacking stable housing and this town’s history of pushing people out, I ask [interim] City Manager Cathy Ball and Principal Planner Shannon Tuch to please remove these [zoning] violations.

— Matilda Bliss

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the city with a summary of the letter writer’s points pertaining to city government, and spokesperson Polly McDaniel provided the following response: “As of Friday, Oct. 19, the Notices of Violation (NOV) remain in effect. The NOV is a tool to inform organizations of violations to the city’s development code. The process allows the recipients to either resolve the complaint or file an appeal within 30 days of the official notification. An appeal from Steady Collective was filed on Sept. 17, 2018, and is currently scheduled to be heard by the Board of Adjustment on Nov. 26.

“During the meeting, the board will decide whether or not the city was correct in its determination to issue the NOV. If the board denies the appeal, then the tenants will have to resolve the violation, or they will be issued a citation and begin accruing fines. If the board supports the appeal and sides with the appellants, then the NOV is then revoked.

“The city of Asheville values organizations providing services to the community. Staff are committed to helping organizations understand how to remain compliant in order to provide necessary services to the public.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

3 thoughts on “Letter: A stain on this town

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Mathilda…you can look no further than your former Mayor Terry Bellamy, the first black woman mayor, as to your concerns about selling out ‘the Block’ downtown…and if you want the REAL facts:

    Segregationist democrackkks took the poor/black people’s property from the southside when they created the Housing Authority of Asheville back in 1940, and forced people into government dependent living for the rest of their lives…many families in there for generations…Segregationist democrackkks still run those government plantations all over the city. You will NEVER see/hear them working to scale back, assimilate, downsize their operations…their outrageous paychecks depend on it. And still the City and County taxpayers just got screwed into giving them another $8.4M to add MORE future ghetto. Remember, the Housing Authority is already FEDERALLY FUNDED with over 6500 units in AVL already!

    http://www.TPUSA.com Watch Candace Owens in action! BLEXIT !!!

  2. Jason

    You may call foul on the city, but West Asheville calls foul on Steady Collective/Firestorm for bringing these problems to our community. Drug addicts, squatters, train kids and now cat killers are in our neighborhoods because of these wonderful organizations.

  3. Ll Warren

    Gentrification, a typical run on land started by the land grabbers of 1838.
    The Trail Of Tears lessons never heeded.
    Greed is what the ruling class personifies.

    Thinking about how the actions or words of one affects all, is not a consideration the ruling class is capable of.
    Empathy empowers.
    Don’t expect it from this town.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.