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Housing Asheville: Better Living Through Homeward Bound

Housing in Asheville can be difficult to find. For some, it’s close to impossible. Homeward Bound serves the community by providing a path to permanent housing.

We spoke with Amber Adams, communication manager, and Eleanor Ashton, Senior Resource Development Director at Homeward Bound to discuss their work in the Asheville community and their new podcast.

Homeward Bound’s mission is to provide housing and support for those in our community experiencing homelessness and ultimately, to end homelessness. They have been around for 30 years as a shelter, which is now known as the AHOPE day center. In the late ‘90s, the organization partnered with the city. Within that partnership, they transitioned from a shelter to providing housing using the “housing first” model. 

Since 2006, they have housed over 1,950 citizens, with 89% never returning to homelessness. They provide support as long as their clients need, helping with the basics and beyond – learning to pay bills, grocery shopping, even emotional support and counseling. 

The ‘Housing First’ model

Considered best practice for the last 30 years, housing first is a method to help needy people by first providing a home, then addressing other issues. Since people are in survival mode when living on the streets, housing needs to be the first step. They eat better, sleep better, accept services better, and have better mental health. Homeward Bound staff sees the dramatic difference when people go from the survival mindset to focusing on their own overall health and wellness.

The survival instinct is more primal and causes people to focus on fight or flight and just staying alive. A safe, loving, and supportive environment revives people’s true nature. 

When looking strictly at the numbers, it costs less to house someone than it does to have them living on the streets.

The Homeward Bound podcast

This project began by accident. Amber sat down with one case manager, Brian, and recorded the conversation to write it down. However, his passion came through in his speech and Amber thought his story would make an amazing podcast episode. 

Once they realized this, the podcast seemed like a better and better idea. A podcast makes the nonprofit more accessible for the community, bringing to life the day-to-day activities there and providing personal insight to client stories. It’s also a way to update people on timely issues that affect the community at large, like the eviction moratorium due to the pandemic. 

The podcast launched with great reception from both staff and listeners. Homeward Bound’s values include treating everyone with respect and dignity, and that comes through on first listen. seeking connections right now, and this helps build those. The next episode comes out toward the end of October 2020 and focuses on their Welcome Home donation center.

A podcast is also a great way to foster connections to people you otherwise wouldn’t, from property owners to city officials. 

The eviction moratorium and pandemic effects

The eviction moratorium, in Eleanor’s opinion, is a temporary band-aid on a problem. Eventually, we’ll have tenants owing more in rent than they can pay off. Eleanor believes a rental assistance program would be more helpful in the long run. 

Amber agrees it’s a double-edged sword, and that people will go into 2021 owing thousands in rent plus late fees. Building up debt is a scary thought. It also hurts landlords badly, as they aren’t able to pay mortgages or utilities. 

Despite the pandemic, Homeward Bound staff and volunteers are still working. They managed the downtown emergency shelter, and have permanently housed 44 people since the pandemic began. Their staff and incredible volunteers are working on the front lines and staying healthy. They couldn’t be here without the amazing support of the Asheville community. 

Stay tuned for news about their new landlord incentive program! 

Connect with them via their website or social media.  Search on Soundcloud for HomewardBoundWNC, and visit their website to sign up for emails for new episode alerts.