Letter: Let’s really talk about homeless encampments

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Instead of city officials or community members making suggestions, I recommend the city host a community conversation. Not a listening board, not a charrette, but a real conversation structured by relevant questions.

Invite all the relevant stakeholders:
1. Government officials.
2. Representative group of homeless people.
3. Those who work with the homeless.
4. Those who provide services to the homeless.
5. Concerned community members.

Host the meeting with round tables that seat six-eight people max and make sure there’s a diversity of people at each table. Have groups engage in conversation/discussion around the kinds of questions that will support solutions.

It’s not enough to just ask for suggestions about “what to do with ‘these’ people.” We’re talking about human beings with diverse needs and circumstances. Some are homeless by choice, some are homeless for medical reasons, some are homeless because of their life circumstances. Some want a better or different option, some don’t care, some like it just the way it is. Some want help, some have given up on the system completely.

The city needs to get clear on the outcomes it is looking for:
• Is it safety for homeless?
• Is it crime among the homeless?
• Is it beautification?
• Is it a tourist issue?
• Is it a place for the homeless to camp?
• Is it to get rid of the homeless population?

Once they know the outcomes they’re looking for, generative questions can be crafted for groups to explore — beginning with current strengths, then aspirations, opportunities and desired result. When more minds and hearts think together on these complex challenges, better and more lasting solutions occur. And never make decisions and do something about some group of people without that group of people being involved in the conversation.

That’s my opinion.

— Cheri Torres


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.

One thought on “Letter: Let’s really talk about homeless encampments

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    campgrounds are businesses that charge fees to camp. these are squatters that don’t intend to pay a dime.

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.