What is behind the ongoing, indeed escalating, war against the homeless being waged by the city of Asheville?
The obvious answer is money. In Asheville, it always seems to come to that. The monied classes — developers, hoteliers, large employers and their ilk — want an Asheville with curb and wallet appeal, yet with cheap labor. When they sell their homes, they want top dollar, and when they buy, they can afford top dollar. We know they didn’t earn that money at Asheville wages.
The dire predictions of a decade ago have long come true — if you work here, you can’t afford to live here. The visible evidence of that truth isn’t normally visible. It’s three-four adults, fully employed, sharing a small house to make ends meet; it’s second and third jobs; mounting debt and student loans weighing heavy. It’s bad teeth and inadequate medical care, crappy cars and constant worry. But all this happens behind the doors of those overcrowded dwellings.
What everyone — including the tourists — can see are the homeless on nearly every street corner downtown. The bulldozed tents and personal belongings, the despair, the sheer dreariness of the experience and the constant fear. No teeth and no medical care. No car. If you’ve been “swept” by the cops lately: no belongings, no tent, no change of clothes, no nothing.
The homeless are the consequences of Asheville’s choices lived in the public domain. They are the results of dozens of years of money-driven decisions. The city’s failure to meaningfully fund its own 10-year plan to end homelessness. Budget cuts in city and county; policy decisions by police and Council members. The truth is Asheville wants them gone. Anywhere but here, anywhere they are invisible. The homeless, their dignity, their civil rights and their belongings are regularly being bulldozed by those with power in Asheville.
Isn’t it time we halted these draconian measures and once again turned to providing shelter with dignity and long-term solutions?
— Laurie Knowles