Filed under: Administrative Services
There are seven elected members on Asheville City Council, but that body relies on more than 250 people serving on 35 council-appointed Boards and Commissions to help guide policy for the City of Asheville.
From the Downtown Commission to the Greenway Commission to the newly formed Neighborhood Advisory Committee, these are the groups that deliberate and advise on a wide range of issues facing Asheville. Citizen involvement is crucial in making decisions that affect the city, and the recommendations of Council’s Boards and Commissions play a big role in Council’s decisions. Some of the most influential policies in the City of Asheville have their beginnings in one of these bodies.
With so many advisory bodies, seats frequently come up for consideration; in 2013, there will be openings on 22 City Council Boards and Commissions. To fill those seats, City Clerk Maggie Burleson sends out regular announcements of upcoming board vacancies. Asheville City Council selects and interviews applicants, and appoints members all in a public forum. A typical term is three years. There is a lot of great information about applying and serving on a Council Board or Commission here.
But hopefuls don’t have to wait until a vacancy is announced. Applications can be submitted at any time and will be held for up to a year. Click here to download an application.
To receive regular notifications of Board and Commission Vacancies, contact City Clerk Maggie Burleson at 259-5601 or email@example.com. Notices are also posted on the City of Asheville website and on the City of Asheville’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Click here to see the upcoming Board and Commission vacancies for 2013 and early 2014.
Click here to see the “Talent Scout” brochure.
January 8, 2013
Eight years after the inception of the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed initiative, neighborhoods in and around the area are transitioning to a new chapter. With the U.S. Department of Justice-funded program drawing to a close at the end of June, the focus will be on building on the momentum and relationships created during the operation and moving from a site specific strategy to a regional one by joining forces with initiatives like the Changing Together crime prevention collaboration.
The Weed and Seed initiative addressed areas of elevated crime by creating and nurturing community driven programs, providing prevention and intervention options, restoring neighborhoods and dedicating supplemental law enforcement in high crime areas. The momentum came out of the communities themselves and was steered by a committee of residents from the neighborhoods most impacted. The result, says Mayor Terry Bellamy, is a healthier and safer neighborhood.
Mayor Terry Bellamy (far left) with Fred Hudson (far right), of the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“You were committed to being part of the change that would grow your community in a positive way,” Bellamy said at a recent barbeque and party at Pisgah View Apartments. The party was held in honor of the neighborhood and the Weed and Seed partners, and was attended by Pisgah View neighbors, service providers, Asheville Police officers and others who have given their time and enthusiasm to make Weed and Seed happen.
“It’s impossible to overstate the amount of involvement, energy and ideas represented here,” said the City of Asheville’s Weed and Seed coordinator Rebecca Byrne. “The level of participation by non-profits and other organizations has been amazing. With those systems and programs in place, the community can keep moving forward.”
“This doesn’t happen easily,” said Fred Hudson, the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Coordinator. “It requires collaboration. We’ve had some incredible success in this community.”
A big priority of the Weed and Seed program was to build strong relationships between APD officers and the community.
Since Weed and Seed began, the West Riverside Weed and Seed area has seen job training for 75 residents, baby sitting programs for teens looking for positive ways to earn money, the formation of a Girl Scout troop and the development of mentoring programs. The Burton Street Community Center got much needed improvements and an entire building of apartments was renovated in Pisgah View Apartments to create a stimulating and safe environment for afterschool programs and resident support services. The DOJ grants provided $148,000 to local non-profits meeting community defined goals.
“But the biggest thing I am proud of is that the community came together to reduce crime,” Bellamy said.
Focused law enforcement and community policing was crucial in the effort to get criminals off the street. Since 2008, some 109 individuals have been charged as habitual felons and several investigative operations have targeted large-scale drug dealing in the community. Asheville Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency collaborations resulted in 30 arrests related to a major cocaine trafficking organization in the area. All told, the APD spent approximately 6,000 additional hours in the Weed and Seed area.
Non-profits are even more engaged in the community, responding with the services neighborhoods say they want to see.
“We’ve seen residents become more engaged in community affairs and work together to ensure they have safer neighborhoods,” said APD Capt. Tim Splain. “That, and the relationships that have been forged with their police officers will help sustain a lower level of crime and better quality of life.”
Changing Together Director Missy Reed hopes those relationships will find a new home in the regional crime prevention initiative. Coordinating with community members, federal, state, city and county law enforcement agencies, the initiative gives the most violent habitual offenders notice that they have an opportunity to participate in programs aimed at moving them out of a criminal lifestyle. At the same time, they put offenders on notice that any further criminal actions will be prosecuted with the intent of pursuing the strongest conviction possible.
“The community has to be at the heart of everything we do,” Reed said.
“Like Weed and Seed, Changing Together is driven by the concerns and desires of the neighbors who live in this community.”
June 26, 2012
ASHEVILLE – The City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) fosters success stories for students year after year.
From 2008-2011, the total scholarship money awarded to CAYLA students was more than $400,000. In addition, 100 percent of CAYLA students in 2008-2010, as well as the 2011 graduating class have been accepted to college.
The below vignettes focus on the 2011 class, their career goals and what they’ve learned from their CAYLA internships this summer. CAYLA’s mission is to provide students with a meaningful summer work experience; leadership development through seminars and community service; and college preparatory activities, including yearlong academic support.
Since its inception in 2007, CAYLA has been nationally-recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. CAYLA students are chosen through a competitive application and interview process by a committee of local educators and human resources professionals. The program is supported in part by the I Have a Dream Foundation, HomeTrust Bank, Dixon Hughes Goodman PLLC, and McGuire Wood & Bissette.
To learn more about CAYLA, go to: http://1.usa.gov/pqNMLl
Spotlight on the 2011 CAYLA class:
Omar Alvarado and Ceante Hudson are CAYLA students interning in the city's IT Department this summer.
Omar is a rising sophomore at Asheville High School and this is his first year in CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy). Omar’s first year of CAYLA has already been very beneficial for him. He’s working with the city’s Information Technology Services Department and his internship is directly related to the career he plans on doing in the future.
After high school, Omar plans to attend UNC Asheville or N.C. State University to major in computer engineering and to pursue a career as a computer engineer. Omar is grateful for the opportunity to be able to work in a department focused on his interests and he’s gaining a great deal of experience learning about virtual software and how to troubleshoot computers. He thinks this experience is preparing him to manage workplace obstacles and is also teaching him responsibility. He hopes that the CAYLA program continues until he graduates.
Ceante is a rising senior at Asheville High School and has been a member of the CAYLA program since 2009. Ceante is involved with the AHS band, the chess club, and ASPIRE, which draws from a diverse cross-section of people to inspire students to aspire for a better life. This summer, he is interning with the city’s Information Technology Services Department, as he did his first CAYLA year. He has enjoyed building strong relationships with the staff while gaining in-depth knowledge about computers. When he graduates from high school, Ceante plans to attend N.C. State University to major in computer engineering, his chosen career field. CAYLA has made Ceante’s career goals all the more attainable because his internship is directly related with the career he wants to pursue.
Kearra Brownlee is interning with Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts for her CAYLA internship.
Kearra is a rising senior who has been a member of CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) for two years. She attends Asheville High School and is involved with Colorguard, Triple S (Sisters Striving to Succeed), F.Y.I. (For Your Information), the CTE Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). After Kearra graduates she plans to attend a four-year university and major in computer science. After college, she would like to work as a computer tech and possibly attend graduate school to further her education.
During her two years with CAYLA, Kearra has enjoyed the program and has gained a lot from it. She is currently working with Asheville Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Department and is quickly becoming an expert in Microsoft Excel, in addition to covering the front desk and many other miscellaneous tasks. Overall, Kearra thinks CAYLA is an amazing opportunity and encourages the city council to continue to support it for many years to come.
Jayln Folston is spending his summer as a CAYLA intern in the Water Resources Department.
Jayln is a rising sophomore at Asheville High School and is a member of the Asheville High Cougars football team. This summer he interned as a CAYLA student in the City of Asheville Water Resources Department in the Meter Services Division.
Jayln loves to challenge himself and does whatever he can to improve, both in and out of school. He is also a member of the track team at Asheville High, and currently holds a state championship ring that he proudly contributed to.
At school, Jayln takes all honor courses and is also in AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), as well as the National Honor Society.
After he graduates, Jayln would like to continue playing football at higher levels, including collegiate. He enjoys studying world history and its various aspects. Jayln wants to learn more about our country and world. Jayln says his CAYLA internship has helped him to grow, excel, and improve as a student. He has enjoyed working with a diverse group of co-workers who taught him about teamwork, hard work, and knowing that one’s decisions really matter and do affect others. He looks forward to continuing with CAYLA in the coming years.
Jalen Freeman is readying for his junior year at Asheville High through his internship with CAYLA.
Jalen will start his junior year at Asheville High School this fall. He is on the football team as well as the indoor and outdoor track teams. Jalen is a math-oriented person who likes to work with his hands. When he graduates, he plans to enroll in a four-year college or university and major in mechanical engineering. With his degree, he plans to get a job in the automotive industry working with cars.
Jalen is enjoying his first year in the CAYLA program and likes the work he does. He splits his work week between the fleet maintenance and transit divisions. He has learned valuable skills in his time with the CAYLA program, such as how to communicate with co-workers and how to navigate the “hidden rules of the workplace.” All in all, Jalen thinks that CAYLA is a great program and is an amazing opportunity for local youth.
Jaquell Hines is interning with the fire department during his summer with CAYLA.
Jaquell is new to CAYLA this summer, and is interning with the Asheville Fire Department. This fall, Jaquell will begin his sophomore year at Asheville High School. He’s already looking forward to AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a class that will assist him in preparing for college. Jaquell also enjoys art, history, and science.
At AFD, Jaquell has learned what it takes to be a firefighter and has a better understanding of what to do during an emergency situation. Jaquell also had the chance to join firefighters as they visited summer camps and taught children what to do when a fire occurs. CAYLA matters to him because it helps teenagers set goals for their future and gives them something productive to do with their time.
CAYLA intern Markes Jackson hopes to attend UNC Greensboro or Chapel Hill after his senior year at Asheville High.
Markes is a rising senior at Asheville High who has been in the CAYLA program for two years. He’s very outgoing in school, and enjoys being a part of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), Sports Outreach, Aspire, and the football team. After Markes graduates, he plans to attend a four-year university, preferably at UNC-Greensboro or Chapel Hill. He has not quite decided the career he plans on pursuing in the future, but possibly wants to come back to Asheville after college and work for the city.
Markes is working for two departments this summer: Administrative Services and the Minority Business Office. Markes says his job is benefiting him because he’s thinking about working for the City of Asheville and his internship is giving him an inside look on what it would be like. CAYLA so far has been a great experience for Markes, and he is thankful to be given such an opportunity.
Abel Lomeli-Garcia is enjoying his CAYLA internship in the Building Safety Department this summer.
Abel is a rising junior at Asheville High. He is involved in cross country, indoor track, track & field, the Spanish Club, and orchestra. Despite his many activities, Abel is committed to his education: His report card has all A’s with the rare exception of a few B’s. After graduating from high school, Abel plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill and major in architecture with as many scholarships he can obtain. After college, Abel plans to further his education by earning a master’s degree to become a construction manager.
This summer, Abel has been working in the Building Safety Department, and has had the chance to visit the construction sites that the city is overseeing. He has learned the many safety features that need to be included in houses or buildings to ensure maximum security. He has also been diligently working in the office to advance his skills in Microsoft Excel. Abel thinks that CAYLA is a great program to do during the summer and believes it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Abel hopes the city can support this program for many years to come.
Manny Lomeli-Garcia has been interning with Public Works Streets Division crews this summer.
Emmanuel, whose friends call him Manny, is interning in the Public Works Department this summer. He is a rising sophomore at Asheville High school and plays on the football team. Manny plans to attend a four-year college and major in business. At this point, he is undecided about specifics but envisions himself as the CEO of a large corporation someday.
This is Manny’s first year in CAYLA and he’s been busy learning about the many functions and responsibilities of the streets division. He has had many opportunities to shadow the division’s employees and now has a much greater understanding of the services our city provides to its residents. Manny thinks CAYLA is “an amazing program” and is happy that he has had the opportunity to work alongside professionals. He is already a dedicated volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and is also looking forward to giving back to the community with the other CAYLA students throughout the school year.
Kasia Maatafale is spending her CAYLA summer with staff in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department.
Kasia is a rising senior at Asheville High School who has been in the CAYLA program for two years. She is involved with AP classes, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) and is also a cheerleader. After she graduates high school, Kasia plans to attend college to become a pediatric cardiologist. She would also like to open her own school someday. She has always taken an interest in medicine and wants to be a doctor. Also she likes kids, so she combined all of these aspects and came up with this career path.
Kasia says CAYLA is giving her the tools she needs to have to fulfill her future plans. This year, Kasia is working with the Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department and is enjoying her experience. Over all, Kasia thinks CAYLA is an amazing opportunity that is helping her to gain personal skills that will help her later in life.
Chris Wright, who is interning with the Asheville Fire Department this summer, hopes to one day be a music director.
Chris will start his senior year at Asheville High School this fall, where he is a member of MCJROTC, Aspire, and Strings. He plays on the golf team and is a former wrestler. Chris’ talents are also musical: He can play piano; stand up bass, electric bass, electric and acoustic guitar, and drums, nearly all of which he taught himself to play. He started out on bass in sixth grade with his strings class and has been playing bass ever since. He is also the music director at his church. Chris plans to attend a four-year college to major in music and minor in fire science. After college, he would like to become a well-known music director.
Chris is currently working with the Asheville Fire Department and he really enjoys it. He has learned about the many responsibilities firefighters have and about the technology involved in keeping people safe. Chris credits CAYLA with helping students like him to set future goals, practice their social skills, and expand their leadership potential. Chris hopes CAYLA will be around for many years.
August 8, 2011
City of Asheville street crews will begin a resurfacing project on South Lexington between Aston Street and Patton Avenue Sunday June 19, milling up the old asphalt in preparation for repaving over the following week. Drivers should be prepared for traffic closures between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. while work is underway. Sidewalks are expected to remain open, but pedestrians may experience delays associated with construction.
This section of South Lexington between Aston St. and Patton Ave. will get a new surface and bike lane.
The resurfacing is expected to be completed by the end of the week, weather permitting. Street cuts for multiple utility upgrades in that area have created the need for new paving, and the City of Asheville is taking the opportunity to adjust the traffic pattern there, adding a climbing lane for bicycles on the uphill side and shared lane markings on the downhill side.
That move advances a city goal to increase Asheville’s accessibility by bicycles and other forms of alternative transportation, says Transportation Planner Barb Mee.
“The climbing lane gives a slower-moving bicyclist a place to be and allows faster-moving motor vehicles to pass bicycles more easily,” Mee says. “And the shared lane chevron markings on the down hill side alerts motorists to expect bicyclists in the travel lane.”
Neighborhood Coordinator Marsha Stickford says the project will be coordinated so that businesses along South Lexington will still be accessible during the resurfacing.
Click here to see a full press release about the project.
Questions or comments can be directed to Neighborhood Coordinator Marsha Stickford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 259-5506.
June 17, 2011
The City of Asheville was awarded the “Best Local Government Recycling Program” award by the Carolina Recycling Association during its annual conference and trade show in Charleston, SC in March. The award was presented to City Council during its June 14 Council meeting.
Rachel Rogers (left), COA Sustainability Outreach Specialist and Holly Bullman, Carolina Recycling Association
The CRA’s local government award recognizes one local government in North Carolina or South Carolina that has created a successful and comprehensive recycling program for its residents. The winner is a model for other governments and demonstrates leadership in programs, materials, methods, outreach to citizens and an ability to grow and adapt with the recycling industry.
The City of Asheville has a strong history of providing recycling options for its residents, with a residential curbside program in place since 1997 and recycling in city facilities since 2000. At 80 percent of its residents participating, the city has the highest participation record in the state. Since the residential curbside program was implemented, residents have recycled more than 90,000 tons of recyclable material. “These numbers are encouraging and tell us we are making progress toward achieving Council’s goal of being the Southeastern leader in sustainability efforts,” said Sanitation Manager Wendy Simmons. “Results like this keep the momentum going and support the effort to stay on the leading edge of waste diversion.”
Recycling has tremendous positive outcomes for the community, the environment and the economy. Using an EPA environmental benefits calculator, one can estimate that the 90,000 tons Asheville residents recycled, resulted in the prevention of 72,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (the equivalent of 54,000 cars off the road), saved 1.9 million BTU’s of energy (the equivalent of powering 18,000 homes for a year) and saved a 658,000 trees due to the use of recycled paper. Furthermore, many of these recycled materials were collected, processed and remanufactured at recycling businesses in NC, helping to support the 14,000 jobs in the recycling industry in the Old North State.
The city has established a municipal carbon reduction goal of 80% by 2050 and sees recycling and waste reduction as a key component to achieving that goal. Other projects currently underway include green purchasing guidelines and the installation of an interactive recycling station to encourage visitors to the Civic Center to recycle more on the go.
Click here to see City of Asheville sustainability initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.
The Carolina Recycling Association (CRA) is a non-profit organization serving the public and private recycling industry in order to advance waste reduction and recycling in North and South Carolina. For more information on recycling, the CRA or to become a CRA member, click here.
June 15, 2011
BB&T volunteers and the City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department teamed up May 18-20 to give the Stephens-Lee Center a Spring cleaning both inside and out.
Around 50 BB&T employees participated in the company’s Lighthouse Project, in which volunteers give four or more hours of their time to community service projects across the nation.
“We felt that since the community supports us, we wanted to give support to the community,” said Wanda Sayer, BB&T Vice President and Commercial Officer. The company donated $5,400 in supplies for the effort as well. “BB&T hopes their efforts encourage others in the community to volunteer their time and support organizations like Stephens-Lee Community Center.”
Teams of volunteers mulched the center’s playground and landscaping areas at the front of the center, and repainted the main hallway and multipurpose room. Parks and Recreation staff provided support for the team, organizing materials, providing tools for the work and operating heavy equipment. The three-day effort was capped off with a cookout BB&T provided for volunteers, Stephens-Lee staff and neighbors.
“To have an organization like BB&T step up and invest their time and sweat equity makes a big difference in an important part of our community,” said Marsha Stickford, the City of Asheville’s Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator. “They just did a great job. It is really amazing the amount of improvement a group like this can get done.”
The Stephens-Lee Center plays a key role in the City of Asheville’s priority to provide opportunities for fitness, after school care, and learning programs for youth and adults.
This is the third year BB&T has conducted its Lighthouse Program, and Sayer said the idea to focus efforts on the Stephens-Lee Center this year came after reaching out to the City of Asheville and Mayor Terry Bellamy. “We wanted to see where the priorities were,” Sayer said. Two years ago, BB&T volunteers carried out a similar project at the Shiloh Community Center, repainting parts of the center and ball field areas and repairing bleachers and benches there.
To find out more about volunteer opportunities in the City of Asheville, contact Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford at (828) 259-5506 or email@example.com.
May 27, 2011
The City of Asheville’s push to increase energy efficiency and reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint takes a big step forward this week with the replacement of street light bulbs in two neighborhoods with LED lights. The LED (light-emitting diode) lights, use dramatically less energy than standard bulbs, which means a significant reduction in energy costs to the city.
Some 900 street lights, primarily in Asheville’s River District and Kenilworth neighborhoods, are being replaced during the first phase of the push, and will represent $45,000 in annual energy costs. Installation is expected to be complete by the end of June.
Installation of 900 LED street lights in Asheville's River District and Kenilworth began Monday.
Maggie Ullman, Energy Coordinator with the city’s Office of Sustainability, says the upgrade to LED street lights represents one of the most exciting developments since the office was created three years ago to examine ways to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use. And, she says, it reaffirms Asheville’s role as a leader in carbon footprint reduction.
“This is is a very big deal for Asheville. It is a highly visible step that will represent real savings.” Ullman said. “This first phase will represent the largest municipal LED installation in North Carolina.”
In 2009, Asheville City Council unanimously approved using Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to fund efficiency initiatives, including the first phase of the streetlight replacement. The revolving fund will roll energy savings back into the city’s green and efficiency initiatives.
Council and staff are currently working on opportunities for the second phase, which would represent a complete LED replacement for all 9,000 city streetlights and result in more that $600,000 in annual savings.
Richard Grant, Administrator of Public Works Services, holds one of the new LED street lights.
The Office Of Sustainability and the Community Relations Division have been working for the past several months to coordinate the replacement launch, including working with partners Progress Energy and BetaLED and getting word to neighborhoods included in the phase one installation. That outreach includes making announcements at community meetings and in neighborhood newsletters. The city has also set up an information page on its website with frequently asked questions and answers about the LED upfitting.
Alongside energy savings, the new LED light bulbs may have a different appearance than standard lighting, especially if the older bulbs have aged and dimmed. The primary difference will be the color, which have a a crisp white/blue tint. But, Ullman says, the lights meet all local, state and federal lighting safety requirements.
The installations will also conform to a 2006 lighting ordinance approved by City Council designed to reduce glare and light pollution. See that ordinance here.
The LED street light replacement is the latest in a list of green and energy efficient initiatives designed to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use and carbon footprint. Last year, the city completed an energy efficient lighting retrofit for City Hall expected to save $15,000 annually. Click here to see more sustainability initiatives and successes.
May 9, 2011
Math literacy is crucial to succeeding in the 21st century, but difficulties with math remain one of the leading causes of school dropouts. Bridging that gap is the idea behind a partnership between the City of Asheville’s 21st Century community learning program and UNC Asheville’s Math and Social Justice class.
Each Monday afternoon over the past school year, UNCA students and Asheville Middle School students met for math tutoring. “Their focus is very much tied into our goals of enrichment,” says Ginny Alexander, Director of the 21st Century Community Learning Center. “It is part of making kids feel good about themselves, improving and getting more confident and not dropping out.”
The 21st Century program is part of the city’s West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed initiative and is funded through the State Department of Public Instruction by Department of Education’s Title IV “No Child Left Behind” federal funds. As grant administrator, the City of Asheville contracts with independent teachers and resource providers that incorporate learning into more aspects of student’s lives. That can include sports, cooking or even dance. “We want to get the kids to apply what they are learning,” says Alexander. “If we find new ways to engage students, they don’t even know they are learning.”
The UNC Asheville partnership grew out of a course developed by Associate Professor Sam Kaplan, who says that math literacy is one of today’s great social equalizers. “What you see about 100 years ago is a push towards reading and writing literacy, now you see the same push for math literacy,” Kaplan says.
Ginny Alexander (center, in orange) with Professor Sam Kaplan and the UNC Asheville students participating in the 21st Century partnership.
Middle school students benefit from one-on-one tutoring sessions, while the UNCA students get tutoring experience and class credit. Tutors use creative techniques to turn the student’s homework and math problems into examples of real-life problem solving, showing the students how math applies to their lives. To mix it up, athletic activities designed to feature math problems get kids moving while thinking. At the end of each day, Kaplan and his students gather in the Asheville Middle School media center to discuss what they have learned.
Alexander points to the tutoring as an example of the prevention, intervention and neighborhood improvement strategies of the Weed and Seed initiative, giving children a better chance at staying in school and more options for their future.
“Kids in the Weed and Seed community say ‘I want more choices.’” Alexander says. “And knowledge of math gives you those choices.”
Click here to see volunteer opportunities with the 21st Century CLC.
March 22, 2011
Recently reported numbers show that, in 2010, 65 people experiencing homelessness in Buncombe County were placed in, or were in the application process for, permanent housing, reports Amy Sawyer, coordinator of the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative.
That, Sawyer says, represents successful progress in advancing the Homeless Initiative and the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness endorsed in 2005 by Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioners. The 10-year Plan to End Homelessness operates on the Housing First model, where people experiencing homelessness receive financial assistance and supportive services needed to access housing, and preventative steps are taken to address families and individuals who may be at risk of losing their homes.
The news comes as a result of the work and collaboration of the Chronic Homelessness Partnership, formed by the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee in 2009 to respond to the idea that using evidence-based practices to focus attention on those who regularly need the assistance of costly emergency services can go a long way toward addressing area homelessness.
The partnership, led by the Advisory Committee, made up of the Buncombe County Human Services Team, the Charles George Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the City of Asheville Housing Authority, the City of Asheville, Homeward Bound and Western Highlands.
“In just over a year, this group has knitted together existing resources in order to help some of the hardest to reach people access permanent, supportive housing,” Sawyer says.
Additionally, the Asheville Police Department, with the assistance of the City of Asheville’s Community Relations division, has placed additional focus on the effort to identify likely candidates for housing by assigning officers to facilitate communication with partners in this collaboration effort. Like the above agencies involved in the Chronic Homeless Partnership, APD officers can share important details about people who are using the greatest amount of services and are most in need of housing stability.
The combined effort, Sawyer says, is unprecedented in the region and means more sharing of information across disciplines and more effective delivery of services while avoiding redundancies, ultimately resulting in a reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness.
“You really can’t overstate what this kind of collaboration means in the effort to get people into housing,” Sawyer says. “Everyone has to be tuned in and able to communicate in order to identify those who most need assistance.”
To pursue its mission, the partnership team reviews potential clients brought to the table by each member. Selected participants are invited to join the project and, if they agree, work with housing case managers to apply for a housing subsidy through the Housing Authority and/or access other rental assistance provided through grants from the City of Asheville and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
House managers continue to work with clients after the move in to connect them with services like job and financial counseling, child care, veterans services or even treatment for mental health and addiction to ensure long-term housing stability. For people entering the program, access to these supports is vital. So far, the over 90% of people entering the program have maintained their housing.
Sawyer reports that, in 2010, 46 people moved into a mixture of public, voucher and other forms of housing. Another 19 were in some stage of the application process. A Point in Time Count at the beginning of 2010 indicated that, with the help of other housing programs in the community, 305 people were in permanent supportive housing.
Click here for more information on the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative.
February 23, 2011
To get to the root of the ideas behind the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed initiative, now in its fifth year in Asheville, program coordinator Rebecca Byrn says it is all about building relationships.
“That’s the foundation of what I do,” Byrn says. “Bringing organizations together, enhancing the relationship the community has with law enforcement and making sure those connections happen.”
The West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed stems out of a national strategy funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and intended to address crime prevention and public safety. The WROWS covers much of West Asheville and focuses energy on areas and neighborhoods that have a higher vulnerability for crime. Weed and Seed works in those communities by fostering trust and communication with law enforcement while building momentum for vulnerable communities to sustain positive change through meaningful programs and neighborhood restoration.
And, Byrn adds, the numbers show a real decrease in crime and violent crime in those areas.
“We are showing a 45% decrease in drug calls for service, a 32% decrease in violent crime and a 24% decrease in weapons offenses compared to the two years before the program was initiated,” Byrn says. “Every year we see the crime numbers go down.”
In November of 2010, Asheville City Council voted to accept the latest round of federal funding.
So how does Weed and Seed work? As it is funded through a USDOJ grant, all Weed and Seed efforts must be rooted in increasing public safety, but the strategies for achieving that mission can have many different faces.
Part of the funding goes to providing extra law enforcement. Asheville Police Officers are able to focus an additional 25 hours on the WROWS above their normal patrol duties in order to “weed out” criminal activity. Community Resource Officers also develop relationships with neighborhood residents, encouraging community policing efforts. “We want people to be comfortable going to law enforcement so they can help officers with information on what goes on in their community,” Byrn notes.
Officers are also on point to interact with neighbors regarding code enforcement in communities, as nuisance properties have been shown to have a relationship to crime in neighborhoods. CROs can also be seen attending community events and helping out with neighborhood cleanups.
Those steps dovetail with the program’s prevention, intervention and neighborhood improvement, or “seed” strategies, that involve an expanding network of community members and organizations. All are involved in creating positive and enriching environments for education and growth, from tutoring programs and creative arts to job preparedness and financial counseling. A steering committee made up of community members and service providers works with an expanding group of partners to determine best opportunities for community development.
Rebecca Byrn is Site Coordinator for the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed.
As the grant administrator, the City of Asheville awards Weed and Seed money, through a request for proposals process, to organizations who can provide programs that meet the initiative’s goals. Recent examples include tutoring by River of Life International and the I Have a Dream Foundation, and street beautification by Asheville Greenworks.
From an upcoming babysitting certification program through the Red Cross to nutritional cooking classes by Slow Food Asheville, the kinds of programs that fit into Weed and Seed cover a lot of ground, but all can be traced back to the common goal of increased public safety.
See below to read a list of organizations currently contracted to provide services through the the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed program.
On Feb. 24, Asheville will host a regional Weed and Seed conference that will see representatives from the U.S. Attorney General’s office, as well as officials from Charlotte, Shelby and Statesville’s Weed and Seed operations. Alongside a visit to the Weed and Seed area, officials will be able to share notes on strategies that have paid off. “It’s important that we have these kinds of quarterly visits,” says Bryn. “We all face the same successes and the same challenges.”
For more information on the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed program, contact program coordinator Rebecca Byrn at (828) 258-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following organizations are currently contracted to provide services to the WROWS:
Asheville Greenworks (Neighborhood beautification)
Children First, Project MARCH (Youth tutoring and enrichment programs)
Consumer Credit Counseling Services (Money management and home ownership classes)
Green Opportunities (Job readiness program)
I Have a Dream Foundation (Youth mentoring, tutoring and enrichment program)
LEAF in Schools and Streets (Creative arts program for youth)
River of Life (Youth tutoring and enrichment programs)
Slow Food Asheville, FEAST (Nutritional cooking classes)
February 18, 2011