Zacchaeus House and its gift of hope

It is a tragic injustice that the city of Asheville seems anxious to shut down the activities and services provided by Zacchaeus House, as detailed by the Mountain Xpress [“A House Without a Home,” March 19]. As a past advocate for the homeless in Boston, I feel it’s safe to say that Asheville has a homelessness problem.

In the two years that I have lived in this exciting and growing city, I have witnessed this firsthand, have attended the city’s forums on homelessness, and have looked for signs of improvement and change. So far the only visible action I have observed can be found daily at the ABC Ministries, in their work for homeless veterans, and at the various programs run by Zacchaeus House.

I have stood in the Sunday-morning prayer circle in Pritchard Park with Rev. Cantrell as she encourages and then feeds these people whose lives have veered away from the economic mainstream. I have witnessed the gift of hope Zacchaeus House has given to so many people on the edge of society. And yet a zoning violation is enough to threaten this valuable service to Asheville citizens.

If the city of Asheville truly believes in attacking the problem of homelessness, it seems to me they should be encouraged to support the work of Z House and help them to bring their house and church up to code, instead of closing them down. As more young veterans return from Iraq with mental-health problems and join the homeless veterans from the Viet Nam War already on the streets of America, it seems obvious that communities everywhere will need all the help they can get from places like Zacchaeus House. Perhaps the city has some ulterior motive, or is caught up in the bureaucracy of its employees. Or perhaps the city just prefers to close its eyes in hopes the problem will go away.

— Stack Kenny

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