The topic? Homelessness of course. I told the City Councilman to stick it in his ear. Let me explain.
For seven years, representatives of Asheville Homeless Network (AHN) has been going to City Council trying to get bus passes donated to AHN members. The bus passes are needed to allow folks to find jobs and to keep jobs once they have them. They are also needed for folks to follow up with medical treatments.
For seven years, the City Council has told AHN no. Apparently someone (or several someones) on the council was afraid that the homeless would use the buses as some sort of a portable shelter. What’s wrong with that? If you needed to get out of sub freezing weather and had nowhere else to go, keeping warm on a city bus for a few hours ain’t such a bad idea.
But the City Council has always turned down the request. Apparently they thought it was better to spend the money on a police substation on Haywood Street that is only used a couple hours each weekday morning and then only by cops to have a place to drink their coffee and eat their donuts. Think I”m kidding? Take a stroll down Haywood any weekday morning and glance in. The rest of the day? The substation is empty and deserted. Yah, that’s our tax dollars well spent — way to go Jan Davis.
Well, with a new slate of officers at AHN, we decided to tackle the issue one more time. We met, off the record, several times with some of the Asheville decision makers. We worked on, honed and tweaked our argument as to why City Council needed to honor this request now after rejecting it so many times and we spent alot of time looking at what other cities do so that we’re not “reinventing the wheel”.
Then the big day comes.
The President of AHN and myself are on the agenda to present our request to the Transit Commision — Step one in getting it passed by the Council.
But we were thrown in the ditch by one of Asheville City Government’s own. Ms. Amy Sawyer, head of the Homeless Coalition, showed up at the meeting — uninvited — and spoke out on behalf of our request. So what’s bad about all this?
She suggested that the bus passes be routed to AHN through the Homeless Coalition — a government commission that tries to coordinate the efforts of organizations working to end homelessness in Asheville.
Now, other than coming up with a pretty little flow chart which you can see by clicking here, the coalition hasn’t done a damn thing. Despite having a ten year plan in place, so far the coalition has just served as a monthly meeting for representatives of various organizations to get together and crow about what they’re doing. They’re so disorganized, that they can’t even keep the website up-to-date with the minutes from the meeting. The last minutes posted were in April 2010 and you can read them for yourself by clicking here.
There’s lots of other neat things I could say about this situation, but my coffee cup is almost empty and I need to move on to other things. But let me say this, if the Asheville City Council decides to grant our request for bus passes, but insists on routing them to us through the Homeless Coalition — then Mr. Councilman — respectfully, stick them in your ear.
NOTE 1: I took this picture in February in the entry of the Salvation Army. See the homeless guy sleeping on the ground in the bottom of the photo? Yah, Salvation Army is a member of the Homeless Coalition — great job they’re doing there.