Asheville – Back in August of 2021, Homeward Bound purchased the Days Inn on Tunnel Road with the intention of providing small apartments for 85 of Buncombe County’s chronically homeless. The buildings had to basically be gutted and completely rebuilt, including electrical and plumbing. Despite those setbacks, they are hoping to open as Compass Point Village sometime this month.
When you walk in the front door, it looks like a high-end condo complex. The common room/cafeteria has nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, with a view onto a natural courtyard. The ceilings have incredible molding and pretty ceiling fans.
Each hotel room has been beautifully designed as a studio apartment, with a combo living/sleeping area, a small kitchen area, and a bathroom. Because the hotel already had TVs in each room, they are able to also provide those for the tenants, who will each have a lease. Jim Lowder, Strategic Gifts Officer for Homeward Bound and coordinator for the new facility, estimated that the annual cost to operate the facility will be about one and a quarter million dollars annually. Louder said, “We will be getting the vast majority of that money from housing choice vouchers from HUD, about eleven hundred dollars per person. That will cover the vast majority of the cost here.”
What is Chronic Homelessness?
When asked, Lowder defined chronic homelessness as having three criteria: “homeless for more than one year, at least one physical or mental health issue, and substance use disorder.” He continued, “We have something for each of those three. There is going to be a medical clinic here on site. It’ll be a three or four day a week clinic. We’ve asked Mission Hospital to donate the equipment.”
The people who will be living here most likely cannot be rehabilitated. They have been homeless, with disabilities, for a long time. Mike DeSerio, Outreach Program Manager for AHOPE Day Center, explained, “We would probably say that they’re the most vulnerable, high-needs people that we’re trying to serve. They’re pretty fragile.”
Lowder added, “It’s that chronic population that creates the most anxiety and fear in a community, where people are saying, ‘I don’t feel safe going downtown.” He believes helping these people with housing will help.
Assistance From Other Non-Profits
Because these people have been so traumatized for so long, DeSerio is hoping that having a community of peers, many of whom are struggling with similar issues, will help to create a community that can support lifestyle changes for the better. Toward this end, Homeward Bound will also be working with other non-profits. One of them will be Sunrise Recovery and Wellness, who will be provided a space in the building to work with the residents. DeSerio said, “They’re a peer-led organization, so they specialize in creating community for individuals that want to embark in some aspect of recovery.”
“Another presenting problem is that there are not enough services for mental illness rehab or rehab for addiction issues,” said DeSerio. He added, “Addiction is such a huge thing. I will be collaborating with MAHEC, who is providing a psychiatrist who can help prescribe and monitor medicines that folks need. Because that’s one of the other big things: you’re living outside for 20 years and you’ve got schizophrenia, but you’ve never had a formal diagnosis, have not been able to see anybody for help. There is a learning curve with a lot of these individuals because they’ve been outside for a long time. So we’ve tried to basically ensure that there’s measures there that really help them keep their housing.”
Equal Plates will be providing one hot meal a day for the residents, and Manna Food Bank will provide groceries to supplement food stamps for the tenant’s meals they can prepare in their apartment.
The building will be secured, although the residents can come and go as they please, as with any leased apartment. The security will serve to regulate who can enter the building.
Funding For The Project
Jim Lowder said he was blown away by the generous contributions donated toward the renovations to convert the Days Inn into this beautiful facility. Lowder stated, “The total cost, including acquisition of the building, is $17.8 million, of which we’ve raised $16.1 million as of today, which is pretty, pretty amazing, pretty impressive, considering we started during COVID.” Lowder gave a breakdown of the sources for the money they raised: “The city put in $2 million, and the county put in $2 million for acquisition, and then they each put in another million, almost simultaneously, for renovation. So, the city and the county put in $6 million. All of that money is American Rescue Plan money, COVID money. Not a penny has been put in that’s local dollars.”
He explained, “The rest of the $10 million plus has come from philanthropic people and foundations. Dogwood Health Trust was big league. They gave us $2 million to help with the acquisition; the State Employees Credit Union gave us $500,000; and the Leon Levine Foundation, out of Charlotte, gave us $400,000; all the rest was pretty much individuals, somewhere around $8 million—a lot of good people is what it is.” Homeward Bound still has $1.7 million left to raise.