Letter: Asheville, take responsibility for homeless problem

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a country, we are at a crossroads for humanity. We have been awakened to the systemic racism that exists in the systems within our corporate structures, our government, our health care system and our financial institutions. We are being asked to no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices that are perpetuated on the weak and defenseless. A blind eye that is for the express purpose of the comfort, wealth expansion and interests of the ruling class.

Contrary to the beliefs of those few who are in charge of many, our country must take a step back, recognize and proceed to correct the overall attitude of indifference toward the less fortunate. You can no longer punish the righteous for doing what is humanly correct and expect your life to continue to thrive. The felony littering charges against the Aston Park 16 are a huge miscarriage of justice. You have the opportunity for greatness by suspending the litigation against the Aston Park 16 and using their sincere hearts and minds to create a team to examine and author a solution to the homeless problem in Asheville.

Asheville has been presented across the country as a progressive paradise. However, the truth of the matter is that it has become nothing more than an area of tourist entertainment and a bed of social injustice hidden beneath glitter and glam. We are being called nationally to become better, to be more, to take care of our own and find a way to flourish in the aftermath of a country that was built on hatred. We are being called to shoulder mutual respect and clarity of care for all.

It is time for you the policymakers to take your responsibility for not just the pretty-in-pink crew, but for all of the citizens of Asheville. If there is a homeless problem, fix it. Stop throwing people in the streets while making housing and access to food only for those that you are most comfortable with. Practice the love of Jesus, the awareness of Buddha, the peace of Prem Rawat and the understanding of Meher Baba. Be more because you can. Ignorance is no longer an excuse for injustice.

— DeBorah Ogiste Satyagraha


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12 thoughts on “Letter: Asheville, take responsibility for homeless problem

  1. Wonton

    Having come from Portland OR I’ve seen some parallels in homeless population and the general situation in local politics. Some people see the homeless as less than human, a scourge on their communities. Those people will not change, their identities are built with a social heirarchy that’s been embedded in their culture since early childhood. Asheville is lucky to have a significant population that feel differently. Those who would like a country club atmosphere where “riffraff” are dissuaded will be better served elsewhere. Since Asheville is known to be more progressive it will draw more homeless, that is not something to deny or fight against, it’s something to embrace, with all of the negatives that come with it. As an experiment in actually adressing the needs of the mentally ill and underserved population, Asheville can prove itself worthy of the progressive label. Otherwise it’s just another town in NC I will avoid.

    • Shultz!

      Very judgmental and broad-brushed. Rise up, please, the world is more nuanced than that.

  2. indy499

    So says the person from Hendersonville. Not really interested in your opinion. Would support one way transit to Hooterville for you though.

  3. Rick

    Asheville is not the entity to be responsible for the homeless. In the United States, individual citizens are to be responsible for themselves. The United States is a country where personal initiative, education, dedication to hard work, responsibility and a sound character are what can bring success and a satisfactory life. Those people who in early years found pleasure in having a good time all the time, and sought enjoyment with drugs, being lazy, and following questionable lifestyles are those who can find themselves homeless. Life can be tough and difficult, so get a helmet! But don’t expect me to pay for it with my tax dollars!

    • Jerry Hinz

      Some deserve help- a hand up- many I see seem to not be planning any changes–
      any improvement– any participating in their own growth- or being productive in society–
      Is that OUR fault- ? — Should we help them – ? Your choice– until you use my tax money..
      Then, I will get upset as a transfer of wealth from those who worked hard or are right now-working hard to make it.
      to these individuals – that have learned the life of being non productive.– that they have chosen…
      If they do not participate in their improvement – work to
      achieve- get a feeling of self-worth thru self improvement- Then- they should be given “tough love”
      Maybe we need to be involved with some minimal help to change their behaviour- for the better
      But giving them a handout- is helping detract from our lives- helps make Asheville a “cesspool” —
      and more attractive to more who do not plan to work.. and does not change their behaviour.
      STOP thinking “WE” need to solve this— Most of THEM
      can help solve this themselves..- WITH THEMSELVES- AS INDIVIDUALS – IN CHARGE- NOT US .
      . BUT again- I do believe that we need to have Health Care FOR ALL.. and as soon as possible..
      The word is must be getting around- GO TO ASHEVILLE–
      Bleeding Hearts won’t require you to help yourself- in Asheville.. They will even get a committee
      together to “solve” your problems for you– Just what you do not need to turn your life around.


  4. SpareChange

    Oh, please… Certainly advocate for the homeless, but let’s not confuse the theater of the absurd which played out in Aston Park (which was also billed as, “the reoccupation,” and “a family art event”) as anything other than what it was. Namely, an overblown, provocative play for attention, led by a small number of self-anointed, faux anarchists, intended to get a rise out of local authorities.

    I saw the “reoccupation” play out after the park was originally cleared, and there were many hundreds of pounds of old tires brought in, used to create a barrier of sorts, numerous pieces of old furniture, various plumbing fixtures, etc. In short, the “family art installation” amounted to piles of trash.

    By the time they were done littering the park, approximately 2,200 pounds of refuse had been brought in and scattered around the park, resulting in a cleanup effort involving more than 100 man-hours, two dump trucks, half a dozen pickup trucks and heavy machinery – all which cost the city of Asheville thousands of dollars.

    IMO, the reoccupation/protest only distracted from and undermined the many serious ongoing efforts to assist the homeless. Rather than advocating for the homeless, those involved in the Aston Park action were merely using them as stage props for their own phony political fantasy. Their main goal was, and continues to be, to depict themselves as the victims of jack-booted thuggery by the City. To a considerable extent, the felony charges probably play to their narrative, but their actions (like the accompanying spray painting of graffiti on the City Hall building which followed the clearing of the park) was politically clumsy, juvenile and totally counterproductive in terms of winning any kind of public support for the homeless.

  5. Pisgah

    asheviLLe has a probLem with fiLth because they can’t make a bLack person do it for them anymore , cornpone

  6. BillArnold

    So many Asheville residents live in the “Asheville Bubble”, not able to see the problem that is right under their noses. They would rather complain and criticize tourism as their problem not realizing if it weren’t for tourism Asheville would just be some backwater town with boarded up store fronts. The homeless situation has become so bad that many tourists will no longer return and recommend for their friends to avoid Asheville. Many publications write stories about how Asheville has lost its vibe and no longer makes the “Top Ten” lists of places to visit or retire. It’s time for Asheville to clean up downtown and keep the streets safe for ALL to share. By the way, I am originally from Chicago and statistically the crime in Asheville is worse than Chicago. Something to think about.

    • R.G.

      Also, many tourists complain that there are too many tourists (and thus why so many publications are saying AVL has lost its vibe or is no longer funky/charming/weird/affordable (take your pick). Tourism (like any commodity) is/can be a double-edged sword (too much, too little, the wrong kind) and, because tourism involves travel, humans, lodging, carrying capacity of a city, reputation/perception, many shifting parts, overlapping challenges are far more nuanced than many comprehend–including many who have moved here from elsewhere. Some who have been here longer know that there were other forces behind Asheville’s resurgence besides tourism. Many of the locals who are asking to put the brakes on have the benefit of historical knowledge. If we can agree that it is always a good idea to clean up the streets, then it should also follow that we are wise to protect what makes Asheville unique.

  7. Pierce

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I hope they get max punishment as these people feel they can do what ever they want without repercussions . That’s a national issue.

  8. Shultz!

    Aston Park 16? I very much hope you’re not trying to equate these scofflaws with the Little Rock 9, the Central Park 5, or some other group that had to actually overcome obstacles.

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