Letter: What do Asheville’s homeless have to offer?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[In regard to Asheville’s homeless population]: Whatever the reason for your situation, your fellow Asheville residents see you and consider you. We often don’t know what to think, though. It may not matter, but sometimes we share; we also want to know that your situation is not permanent and that there is more of you than what we see. When you stand at an exit waiting for handouts, begging for handouts with your cardboard sign, what do you think about? What is your plan? What do you have to offer? Would you be willing to trade for what you beg?

Do you have poems, songs to share? Can you create a clover crown or bracelet while you wait on the ramp so that you may trade your work for money? Do you keep your spaces tidy and litter-free? Have you gathered ribbons and feathers to make something special? Do you draw well — are you willing to share your drawing? Do you need books; will you share your thoughts on what you have read? Can you dance and make us laugh? Do you laugh? Will you recite your favorite lines for us? We want to lift you — do you want to be lifted? We could use some uplift — can you lift us? People love to buy things, ideas, entertainment. We would more freely give if you “sold” us something.

We realize you are not for show, but you can share, can’t you? You struggle and remain here in Asheville. What do you do? Why do you do it? Do you want to be a part of the system? Do you reject the system but ultimately still depend on it? Do you have your own system? Don’t you have any imagination? Are you ready for something else? Or are you content?

Pity is sadness for one’s misfortune and keeps you in the past, but an exchange in goods and sharing of resources moves you forward. You are a part of Asheville. We want to embrace and lift you, but you must want to be lifted and embraced. We can rise together. We can be better. You can be better. This is Asheville, after all. What have you got?

This paper is freely distributed, so share it with your cohorts and do something different.

— Melissa Nicholson


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12 thoughts on “Letter: What do Asheville’s homeless have to offer?

  1. BRO

    Oh my god. Are you serious? You want people begging for money to entertain you at the stoplight? You do understand that people who are homeless don’t sleep well, don’t eat well, and frequently have terrible health – not to mention untreated mental illness. You realize that 40% of the homeless population are veterans. Do you think that they should make you a clover crown after serving? Why don’t you work to lift people up by fighting for veterans services, mental health services, living wages and affordable housing? Because that’s a real solution – not your plan to be entertained by people fighting for survival.

    • Kathleen

      BRO ~ My thoughts exactly! I was appalled by the patronizing tone of this letter. “Do you keep your spaces tidy and litter free?” Seriously?! Many of the homeless are deeply depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and may suffer other mental illnesses. They are desperately trying to survive, not keep their “spaces” tidy. Melissa seems to have a very naive view of the homeless. If she doesn’t want to give money to the homeless, don’t give. She can just ignore them. But to expect them to perform, dance, draw, hand out feathers, tidy their spaces, and glad-hand you for your handout is reprehensible. Indeed, the letterwriter’s sense of superiority was disturbing.

  2. Tsalagister

    Pity lies between pathological and putrid in the dictionary. Pity patronized,empathy empowers.
    It is an appalling attitude to expect the poor to entertain you.
    Obviously, you have no capacity for respect nor empathy..OP….
    I’m gonna pray Great Spirit wakes your oblivious mind up.
    May your ignorance cease to infect the world.

    • Alan Ditmore

      “Pity” and “empathy” are the same thing, differing only in connotation, like “special” and “weird”, and “assertive” and “aggressive”.

    • Bright

      That is like to news…people pay money, eat their dinner in a cozy armchair, and watch soooooo many other’s and others, misery. It is insanity.

    • Kathleen

      Well said, Tsalagister! Melissa came across to me as being on a very high horse, looking down at these peasants and wanting to know what they plan to do to entertain her before she tosses them a pittance. Sigh.

  3. Alan Ditmore

    The homeless have a lot to teach us about frugality, especially how to present a frugal image, and also reducing environmental footprint, especially how to save heating oil. They are the ultimate masters of the tree R’s of green living. DON’T PICK UP LITTER OR THEY’LL RAISE RENTS!

  4. Alan Ditmore

    Human society is a parasite on nature anyway, so being a parasite of a parasite, like a virus that sickens a flea, is better for nature than being the flea itself, ie, the directly parasitic member of human society.

  5. Tsalagisister

    The Lakota say “Miyutake Oyasin” meaning All my relations..
    We natives believe we all are related and demanding entertainment or reciprocal actions without appropriate respect is just a decided lack of regard for the fact that 99 percent of all our DNA is the same.
    The homeless are human beings down on their luck.
    Only the blind think otherwise.

  6. John

    Melissa, I think your letter is awesome. I was homeless (and employed) in Asheville for over five years up until about two weeks ago and I will tell you that aside from wild nights and some insane stories the homeless people in Asheville do have a lot to offer. It’s not as much about what talents or dreams that homeless people have. Everybody has something to offer. It’s not a rejection of society, however I never met a homeless person who was trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’ What you may find among the homeless in Asheville is character. Take any of the people that you know and drop them off in downtown with a backpack and a few clothes and see if they have the will to survive- because that’s what it is- survival. It is an extremely difficult life and what most ‘housed’ people fail to realize it is just that- a way of life. What you express is exactly what’s missing from the opinionated or uninterested people in this or any city in the country- that homeless people are people and there is no reason to treat anyone differently just because of their socio-economic position or standing in the community. The truest test of anyone’s character is how they treat those who can do nothing for them. How can anyone look down on someone who doesn’t have anything? Thank you for at least expressing concern. The best thing that anyone could do to improve the lives of homeless people is treat them like they are people. They are human beings, they are a part of the community, they are citizens of this city, state, and country, and just as deserving of being treated decently as any other human being. Homeless people are survivors and many of horrors which most people cannot fathom. Try saying “hi” every now and then. Most of the homeless do not bite. Check out their stories and I promise that many of them will blow your mind. There is a certain positivity that homeless and street people possess. It’s beautiful and amazing. Out on the streets I met some of the most incredible people that I have ever met in my life and many that I call friend. It does not end once someone is off of the streets and in housing. Those bonds will last a lifetime and all you have to do to be a part of it and get to know what is a considerably large element of the community is talk to homeless people. Most will simply appreciate being acknowledged as a fellow human and that can go a long way in regards to brightening someones day- and who is to say how significant of a change something so simple as ‘hello’ could make in someones life. Be careful tho, some do bite. I appreciate you.

  7. Tsalagisister

    To the above beautiful human… Yes!as John Prune sang. .say “hello in there.. Hello.. ”
    A smile.. Kindness, empathy and Agape love help more than folks know.. We all need community

  8. Enlightened Enigma

    WHY do the ‘homeless’ roadies continuously want us to provide for them ? Most are very resourceful and some choose to remain homeless. We cannot afford them in a SUSTAINABLE manner…one way bus tix out of town is the solution.

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