Government Accountability Project Asheville

Gap Report for 1/24/22

Jan 24, 2022

The City Council meets this Tuesday (1/25/22) at 5 pm. Here is the full agenda.

Here are the items that the GAP Strategy Team identified as relevant to racial justice this week.

URGENT

  • 0 items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 1 items

CONCERNS

  • 0 items

POSITIVE

  • 1 items
q

RED:

Things that seem problematic

UPDATE: City’s Homelessness Policy

This article was posted on the City Manager’s site on 1/18. It says, in part: “City continues to address criminal behavior as well as increased monitoring and clean-up of parks and other public property… Encampments are unsafe and not solutions to homelessness… City’s goal is to move beyond managing homelessness to ending homelessness.” The City also released this statement on 1/24, trying to clarify its stance on the public distribution of food in City parks. 

We remain concerned that the City seems to be moving to criminalize homelessness, which contradicts their stated values and doesn’t actually address this vitally important public health crisis. Because people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population, we see this as a racial justice issue. 

We wonder:

  • Why the Asheville Police Department (APD) chose to start including overdosing as a crime (when it should not be considered a crime) in their most recent statistical report? This would seem to artificially inflate the crime data in order to justify an increase in police monitoring of camps. We would also like to see comparative data on whether homeless camps have led to an increase in overdoses. Might not the presence of others mitigate against overdose deaths?
  • Where is the evidence that the camps were a cause of sexual assault? APD listed 25 reported rapes as justification for camp evictions and the City has endorsed this argument. Did closing these camps really decrease the risk of sexual harm to those most vulnerable to it? 

In sum: the City’s approach of criminalizing overdoses, camps, and homelessness in general are not an acceptable or viable approach to this problem.

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council and ask them what their plan is for addressing the homelessness crisis, both in the short term and the long term.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

The City Manager’s report documentation was published on Friday, alongside the rest of the agenda. This report, which will be presented to City Council on Tuesday, documents the work that Tepeyac Consulting has done to develop this plan. We appreciate the City Manager providing her report in advance, something we’ve asked for repeatedly. We salute the City and Tepeyac Consulting for such impressive work. They have put forward thorough and effective solutions, and they have done so through a process of deep engagement with the communities most impacted and often left out, and with a racial justice lens. This project is an example of the quality of work that can be done in the City when they invest in businesses owned by women of color who are deeply committed to authentic community engagement.

Things to do

Reach out to the City Manager (phone: 828-259-5604 Email: dcampbell@ashevillenc.gov), and thank her for sharing her report two business days before the City Council meeting, and offer appreciation for the impressive work by Tepeyac Consulting.