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Asheville OKs $73K to retain consulting firm in hopes of getting plan to end local homelessness
Wednesday, 25 May 2022 23:37

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council voted unanimously May 10 to approve a roughly $73,000 contract with a homeless srvices consultant as the city reportedly is experiencing a decrease in shelter beds and a rising number of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer recently called the city’s homeless issue a “crisis,” saying the time has come for the city to seek outside help  to help leaders address and manage the homeless crisis.

Specifically, the National Alliance to End Homelessness was named during council’s meeting as the consultant to develop a plan to address the unsheltered in Asheville and Buncombe County. 

Working with the consultant will be the city, in partnership with Buncombe County. The consultant’s work will be financed by Dogwood Health Trust, while the city will oversee administrative and contracting efforts.

The Alliance was selected for its expertise and approach from among 11 firms who responded to a Request for Proposals issued in February 2022, the city noted in a May 10 press release.

“The Alliance is a national leader in the field of ending homelessness and brings extensive experience relevant to this project, including work in other communities in North Carolina,” the release stated.

“Work is expected to begin next month and conclude in December 2022. Its first task: conduct a comprehensive needs assessment using data collection, analysis and interviews with stakeholders throughout the community, including people who are unsheltered, service-providers, neighborhoods and business and faith communities,” the release added.

In addition to the hiring of the homelessness consultant, on related issues at the May 10 meeting, city staff presented to council its Point-in-Time Count and updates on decreased crime rates near AHOPE, the city press release stated.

More specifically, council was “given an update on many areas impacting  homelessness in our community,” the release noted. “Among the areas addressed by the Community and Economic Development team were results of the 2022 Point-in-Time count, a resolution adopted by council to accept funding for a Homelessness Services consultant, and updates to a decreased need for police response at Homeward Bound’s AHOPE Day Center.”

As for the 2022 Point-in-Time count, the release said, “each year, the City of Asheville conducts a count of all people experiencing literal homelessness on a single night in January. The 2022 Point-in-Time was conducted on Jan. 25, 2022, with the participation of 48 volunteers. The results were submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development on April 26.”

The count results revealed the following:

• “The city’s homeless population has increased 21 percent since 2021.”

• COVID-19 “has significantly impacted community homeless services, resulting in lower shelter inventory due to protocols, but an increase in the volume and complexity of needs.

“Infusion of federal rental assistance funds and non-congregate shelter options helped offset COVID impact.”

• Even “with an increase in the number of homeless and complexity of needs among the population, 28 percent of shelter beds available in Asheville on the night of the Point-in-Time count, remained vacant.”

Regarding the AHOPE updates, the city press release stated that “the Asheville Homeless Outreach Project for Empowerment (A-HOPE), a strategy developed alongside Homeward Bound, serves individuals with unstable housing needs. The AHOPE Day Center provides daily services for community stability,  community engagement and housing systems management and placement.”

To that end, council was informed that “calls for Asheville Police Department service at AHOPE have decreased significantly,” as follows:

• December 2021 – 98 calls

• January 2022 – 44 calls

• February 2022 – 66 calls

•  March 2022 – 42 calls

• April 2022 – 22 calls

The “APD also reports a decrease in crime in the 250- to-500-foot area around the AHOPE day center,” the release noted.

To handle the homeless problems, council was told by city staff of the “community approach” that is now being used by Asheville.

“Our whole community benefits by ending homelessness, and our greatest impact comes when we work together; we can do more as partners than we can do alone,” the city staff told council, according to the release.

“Updates on the project, including opportunities to participate, will be shared via the City of Asheville’s website and through the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee,” the city’s press release concluded.



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