[In response to the letter to the editor by Melissa Nicholson, “What Do Asheville’s Homeless Have to Offer?” Dec. 13, Xpress]: I think it was back in April when my perspective on the relationship between the “housed folks” and “homeless people” of Asheville changed.
I was walking downtown at midday. The sun was warm; people were out. I walked under a bridge where throngs of people had passed. I noticed a person sleeping on the sidewalk. Then I realized he wasn’t sleeping. His legs had been crossed, and he’d fallen over. A trail of urine was going down the sidewalk. I started talking to him. I introduced myself and [said] that I wanted to make sure he was OK.
I asked him if he could sit up. He couldn’t. I asked him if he could speak. His mouth opened, but no words came out. His breathing sounded labored. This is a human being. How long had he been there in a state of crisis while apathetic feet in boots more expensive than they’re worth walked by?
The homeless population are residents of Asheville. And they are often not considered or seen by the “housed people” of Asheville. But they could be. Existing should be enough for each and every person to have access to shelter, healthy food, clean water and opportunity.
[From Nicholson’s letter], I understand that you want to see the homeless offer something instead of begging. You want to see creation and intellectual engagement. But did you think first that basic needs are not being met? And then do you realize that while you’re asking for thoughts on books, that there may not be an organized place for them to collect? When I went to the library, they asked me to bring a bill with my name and address on it before I got a card. And is there a place in Asheville for low-income folks to come and create? Why didn’t you think about access to resources?
It’s so easy for us to judge from high above, not realizing the hill we’re standing on is made from the dirt that has another in a ditch. Why are we expecting people to be in some other circumstance without considering the system that fails them? Where’s the rope and toehold? We have the resources. Let’s figure out how to provide them.
— Susanna Dancy