After meeting with the manager of the Asheville [Visitor Center gift shop] to discuss possibly selling her AHHH Asheville T-shirt bags designed in part to bring needed money to Homeward Bound, I was approached for money by a homeless veteran outside of Harris Teeter. He had me at “veteran who was temporarily homeless” (and very wet). I watched as the next people he approached closed their car doors and ears without making eye contact. Is homelessness contagious?
I moved here in June from West Virginia and have fallen in love with the diversity and beauty of our area. Unfortunately, part of that diversity is a disparity of economic means. Much has been written and discussed about rising housing costs due to us transplants. Mayor Esther Manheimer has pledged to end veteran homelessness and challenged landlords to step up with affordable housing, especially for veterans.
The short-term rental of homes to visitors is often perceived as exacerbating the problem. Let’s turn this “problem” into an opportunity. First, there seems to be consensus that visitors and transplants are not going away, and sites like Airbnb not only make Asheville more accessible to visit but also enable those of modest means to come [to] and/or live in Asheville.
Let’s establish fair regulations that ensure safety and needed revenue. Let’s add to the sales tax a portion to go toward affordable, permanent housing so that rather than “be bothered” by panhandlers, all may be housed in a warm, safe and dry home.
I found myself thinking about Asheville as I sang Stephen Foster’s song written in 1854:
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh! hard times come again no more
— Ian Rudick