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Overcoming Homelessness (Blog)

Written by: Molly Gaskin

In the Asheville/Buncombe County area, there are an estimated 554 people homeless on a given night, which is about 21.5 in every 10,000 people. In Asheville, 40% of the people experiencing homelessness are veterans, which is significantly greater than the national veteran homelessness rate of 11%. Homeward Bound is an organization dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness through homeless and housing services such as Housing First, along with several community partners.



The Problem

As the lack of affordable housing compounds with social and economic issues, homelessness is a growing problem in the United States. In general, housing costs are considered affordable if it costs the resident 30% of their income or less, and those paying more than 30% of their income are considered cost-burdened. Nationally, there is a shortage of seven million rental homes affordable to low-income individuals. In North Carolina, there are just 43 affordable and available rental homes per 100 extremely low-income renter households. The lack of affordable housing is closely tied to homelessness when low-income individuals cannot access housing they can afford or become burdened by rental costs. In North Carolina, there are an estimated 9,268 people homeless on a given night, which is about 9 in every 10,000 people. In the Asheville/Buncombe County area, the proportion is even greater, with 554 people homeless, or about 21.5 in every 10,000 people.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

Issues that compound the lack of affordable housing can include low incomes, health conditions, domestic violence, and racial disparities. Health issues ranging from physical to mental illness and disability can lead to or perpetuate homelessness. Homelessness disproportionately impacts disabled individuals, who are more than twice as likely as the population at large to be homeless. A large share of individuals seeking mental health support or substance use treatment are homeless as well. Veterans also experience homelessness as a result of the impact of multiple or extended deployments on top of the pressures experienced by other Americans. In Asheville, 40% of the people experiencing homelessness are veterans, which is significantly greater than the national veteran homelessness rate of 11%.

 

The Solution

In Asheville and Buncombe County, Homeward Bound offers solutions by ending the cycle of homelessness through a variety of strategies. The primary model for Homeward Bound is Housing First, which they implemented in 2006. The Housing First model is a practice that approaches homelessness from the bottom—addressing the baseline need for shelter to provide people with a platform on which to build skills, recover from illness, or address other problems or goals in their lives. The Housing First model proved highly successful since Homeward Bound implemented it in 2006, with nearly 2,200 people housed with an 89% retention rate. Homeward Bound owns and operates the Woodfin Apartments, a permanent supportive housing center established in 2016. This permanent supportive housing program has been successful as well, with 90% of residents remaining housed.

Homeward Bound also operates homeless support services such as the AHOPE Day center and Room in the Inn women’s shelter to home program. AHOPE Day center provides services such as showers, mail, phones, and storage to people experiencing homelessness. In addition, Homeward Bound works to prevent homelessness with practices such as Rapid Re-Housing, which involves assistance transitioning between housing in the form of short-term rental assistance and case management. Similarly, Rapid Resolution helps residents retain the housing they currently have. Rapid re-housing, rapid resolution, and homelessness prevention are all key veterans support services as well. The Veterans Housing Services Program successfully housed 440 veterans and members of their families and prevented homelessness for 139 veterans since 2018.

 

The Players

Homeward Bound is an organization based in Asheville providing homeless and housing services ranging from permanent supportive housing to day centers and homelessness prevention. They work in partnership with the City of Asheville and Buncombe County, as well as the Veterans Administration to provide support for veterans experiencing homelessness. Several local restaurants and markets such as Ingles Markets, Wicked Weed, and Rezaz and Baba Nahm, support Homeward Bound through food-based projects.

 

The Promise

Homeward Bound is working to expand their housing services with the conversion of a hotel in Asheville. The project is titled Home is Key and would convert 85 hotel rooms into permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness. They estimate the annual cost per year for the project would be $1 million, which is $2-3 million less than the cost to the community if nothing is done to assist these 85 individuals. The site would include supportive services in partnership with the City of Asheville, Sunrise Community Wellness and Recovery, Haywood Street Congregation, and Appalachian Mountain Centers/Dale Fell clinic.

The Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg Partnership (HFCM) is another example of a successful Housing First program in North Carolina. The Urban Ministry Center runs Moore Place, a permanent supportive housing center with 120 units. In its first year, Moore Place saved $1.8 million through reduced time in emergency rooms and hospitals. After two years, a report by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found an 81% housing retention rate and reduction in crisis services. Moore Place has been part of the HFCM scaling of Housing First work in Charlotte.

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