I moved to the East Asheville neighborhood of Oakley nine years ago to retire. For the past four years, I have witnessed an increase in the homeless population at on- and off-ramps of the highway. I attempted to help a woman living in her car in 2019 in a Bleachery Boulevard parking lot. I brought her necessities during Christmas 2019. By January, she was looking for another parking lot to live in because she was accosted in the middle of the night by homeless men demanding she let them sleep in her car.
I met several men that hung outside a store in the same area that were later arrested for cooking meth in the woods next to the parking lot. I have stepped out of my car in another nearby parking lot and just missed stepping on an exposed needle. When I go to get dog food, there are usually two-four people sleeping on the walkway between two stores.
The Ramada Inn transition in March 2021 has brought extreme violence and threat to my little neighborhood. When I heard that they were purchasing the buildings for a low-barrier shelter, I immediately wondered why I didn’t know this. I found out through Nextdoor and then through the East Asheville Safety and Wellness Facebook page.
I believe in everyone having an opportunity to build their lives and find hope and security. Rationally, I know that drug abusers (most are homeless) cannot just switch off their addiction or dysfunctional behavior because they have a dry, warm place to lay their head. So I have watched as the low-barrier use of the Ramada since last March has created a crisis in East Asheville.
East Asheville was a working-class oasis in a town that parties a lot and draws tourists as a transient economy. Now, I am terrified to shop in my area of Asheville. I am terrified of my home being broken into and fighting off a drug-addled human struggling to get their next fix. Yes, my neighbors are being robbed. Strangers knock on doors in the late evening asking for water or a phone.
Without a massive investment in social services for these homeless people, there will be no noticeable change in the safety of East Asheville. It’s not a new problem, and the solutions are not new, either. Perhaps they are just forgotten. What works? Rehab, ongoing therapy, opportunity to rebuild one’s self-esteem by working and learning a new trade or return to an old one. I believe a farm would be ideal for these souls. A farm that offers training and being productive running the farm. Offering daily group and individual therapy would help people to look at the issues that brought them to rock bottom. Gradually, as people graduate from this halfway house, there should be opportunities for them to work in a job that satisfies their living needs of shelter, community and a future.
I feel that the City Council just dropped these people off in East Asheville to continue their downward spirals out of sight of downtown or the Montford area. The lack of transparency has me very upset. Why wasn’t the Oakley community involved in this decision? Of course, there was an outcry. Two people died, and a third overdosed in the Ramada just a few weeks ago. No one could even identify them. How has this helped anyone?
— Dallas Triniti