I am writing in regard to the city’s recent zoning siege, particularly to Firestorm Books at 610 Haywood Road. Without knowing a soul, I moved to Asheville two years ago with my vehicle. I was homeless and healing from a traumatic back injury. Firestorm Books offered me a safe place during the day and encouraged my involvement in the community. I have been a patron ever since.
With so much misinformation out there, I wanted to correct the record. The collective provides secure public computer access to the poor, offers low-cost space for groups to have a diversity of workshops, meetings and presentations. Firestorm creates a positive learning environment for children and adults alike and serves as a safe and competent mediator in the community.
Firestorm is increasingly known for offering space to The Steady Collective for 2.5 hours a week for its needle exchange, reducing the harm and damage caused by the epidemic of opioid use. Firestorm has helped provide dispensary bins to prevent needle waste. Additionally, Firestorm hosts free STI and HIV testing every Valentine’s Day. They also coordinate Books-to-Prison donation drives, which help empower prisoners by increasing their literacy and self-confidence, thereby reducing recidivism rates.
Firestorm treats with humanity those patrons who are respectful, including the homeless looking for a safe place to stay for a couple hours. And of course, Firestorm is a hot spot for tourists in search of cultural relics. Our progressive city can promote tourism by showing kindness and humanity to its homeless residents. Money and commerce actually flow to those cities, making themselves a blueprint for other cities to follow.
I ask City Council to do right by history, by the city’s legacy, and by its own conscience by instructing interim City Manager Cathy Ball to work with city planners to remove these [zoning] violations.
— April Mycelia