Letter: Downtown problems need city, county attention

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I have felt a creepy vibe when I have gone downtown because of the difficulty of finding parking and the homeless folks camped out on sidewalks. I have also witnessed mentally ill or drugged people yelling and shrieking at passersby. Not good for tourism, folks.

Parking is so difficult to find and so expensive once found that I seldom go there. There are some cool places I would like to frequent more often, such as the library, the art museum and city restaurants. However, parking is such a pain that I find myself going to East Asheville, Weaverville and Black Mountain.

I pity the homeless people. It must be traumatic to be in that situation. It is difficult to know by glancing at them which ones have suffered adverse financial situations and which ones are substance abusers. Are there “no loitering” laws in Asheville? If there were and they were enforceable, that would lower the numbers of vagrants. Are some people stranded in Asheville because they were kicked out of their homes, and they can’t afford anyplace to live? There are organizations that are trying to build tiny homes to help a few.

Not only Asheville but every community in Western North Carolina should have robust substance abuse treatment options. Unless people pressure their elected representatives, they will not do anything that suggests helping through social programs. The representatives are primarily focused on assisting the people and entities that have given them funding for their political campaigns. This is a sad situation that burdens us all.

Far from defunding the police force, we should be thankful that there are people willing to do the job of keeping the peace and of dealing with difficult people. Being a police officer is a really difficult job with long hours and often unpleasant working conditions — not to mention possible loss of one’s life. Couple that with low wages, and it is easy to see why the city finds it difficult to hire and keep staff.

Is the state legislature taking up the issue of providing more funding for treatment and care of people with serious mental health problems? The rise in cases of suicide is really alarming. Do mental health patients contribute to campaign funding? If not, they are not likely to get attention from legislators other than a mere token project. The same goes for why legislators refuse to provide government-funded medical care. Poor people don’t contribute to campaign funding.

One ongoing problem is the hotel tax that goes to the tourism board. This is crazy, and the state legislature needs to overhaul this particular cash cow so that the funds go for infrastructure projects.

The city has serious issues to deal with. I want to give my support to the city and county elected officials and trust that they do have the best interests of the people at heart. As part of my support, I know that I need to let them know the problems that I see and to ask them to find solutions.

— Anne Barker

Editor’s note: This was one of a number of letters about downtown Asheville that came in after a recent Xpress newsletter highlighted three articles covering concerns about public safety and cleanliness downtown. Those stories can be found at avl.mx/chuavl.mx/chw and avl.mx/cht. To sign up for Xpress’ free newsletter, go to avl.mx/8st.


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4 thoughts on “Letter: Downtown problems need city, county attention

  1. Keith

    People who claim that they don’t go to Downtown Asheville have always been the most adamant advocates of detaied reasons to scare people away from going to Downtown Asheville. This is a consistent fact of life. Sisyphus had the same problem.

    • Bob Dobbs

      Sisyphus cheated death twice and was condemned by Hades to keep rolling a rock up a hill. I don’t think he was concerned about homelessness or downtown Asheville… but I guess if you throw one or two five cent words into an opinion piece people will assume you know what you are talking about.

      • Keith Thomson

        It is better to light a candle than relentlessly advocate to burn Downtown and start over again circa 1979.

        For years now, people are saying that no one goes downtown anymore, it’s too crowded.

        Most of us miss the Asheville community that worked together for achieving solutions to difficult problems, and did so with love for our neighbors. Sad.

  2. El Gordito

    No we don’t have no loitering laws here. We try not to be insensitive jerks. Which is why homeless populations are attracted to this area. Yes, it’s a liberal city. Yes we have problems. Plenty of other cities with draconian homeless laws where sleeping in your car or on the street is illegal but this isn’t one of them.

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