Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: The new greenway along Riverside Drive and Lyman Street is a wonderful 2-mile section. It adjoins the French Broad River. However, the view across the river is not so great. It is dotted with shabby encampments of presumably homeless people. Is there no enforcement authority responsible? Why doesn’t the city do something about this?
My answer: This being Asheville, I’m pretty sure those tents rent for about $1,500 a month.
Real answer: These tents and encampments have been a problem for quite a while, and the Asheville Police Department has addressed the issue before.
“The camp that the questioner is referring to was part of an extensive cleanup effort by the city of Asheville within the last two years,” Asheville Police Department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said. “The COVID crisis has complicated any potential solutions to encampments, as the Centers for Disease Control has provided guidance for a comprehensive approach to Unsheltered Homelessness during the pandemic.”
You can find that document here: https://bit.ly/33FXyGE.
The CDC guidelines include these recommendations regarding encampments:
“Considerations for encampments: If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”
Meredith Switzer, executive director of Homeward Bound, which helps local homeless people find housing and runs the AHOPE Center day shelter, said between the pandemic and the cold, “It’s not humane” to remove encampments.
“Where are they going to go?” Switzer said. “It’s inhumane to force people who have nowhere to go to leave the only safety they know.”
Until this week, Asheville did not have a shelter that could handle “Code Purple” nights, when the temperatures drops to 32 or below. Switzer said Western Carolina Rescue Ministries was able to open a Code Purple shelter this week at First Congregational Church at 20 Oak St. downtown, but that’s the first time since the cold weather hit.
Western Carolina Rescue Ministries and other shelters have been open, but they have not been able to let in everyone who needs shelter on cold nights, mainly because of COVID testing protocols and the fear of spreading the virus inside facilities.
A daytime “warming center” has been open this week at Jubilee! on Wall Street. That center will move Dec. 7 to the fellowship hall at Central United Methodist Church at 27 Church St., according to Homeward Bound, which is helping to staff the center.
Hours of operation will be 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and 8 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays. Masks are required in the building at all times, and capacity is 50 people.
Hallingse said community-based solutions are key.
“As an agency, APD recognizes that solutions to homelessness will require what the CDC refers to as a ‘whole community’ response, and that law enforcement is only a small part of the comprehensive effort required to successfully address these challenges,” she said. “For our part, we are actively conducting outreach to homeless encampments across the city, and coordinating cleanups as appropriate.”
Question: Just wondering what the taxpayer tally is up to on the scaffolding on Vance monument? How long is what’s left of it going to remain in place?
My answer: Not sure, but the remainder of the scaffolding and sheeting now rents for $1,700 a month. Hey, it’s prime downtown real estate.
Real answer: “The city of Asheville hired a contractor to assist with the Vance Monument shrouding at a cost of $18,500,” said city of Asheville spokeswoman Polly McDaniel. “There is a monthly scaffolding rental cost of $2,600 after the first 28 days. The total spent through October 2020 has been $24,974.50.”
The task force charged with studying the Vance Monument and its future recently decided it should be removed, but the final decision rests with City Council.
The monument to Zebulon Vance, a former Confederate officer and North Carolina governor, was erected in 1898. Vance, who also served as a U.S. Senator, was a slave owner, opposed rights for Black Americans during Reconstruction and firmly believed that Blacks’ place was in servitude.
As far as how long that scaffolding will remain, that’s unknown right now.
“There is currently no timetable for its removal,” McDaniel said.
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or email@example.com.