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Addiction and Homelessness in Asheville

Nestled in the sprawling Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, the city of Asheville is home to a population of roughly 92,000 individuals. In recent years, Asheville has seen exponential growth and development as thousands of people have moved to the area. Asheville is a highly attractive tourist destination due to its grand natural beauty and mild climate and draws upwards of 10 million visitors per year. The city is also now acclaimed for its restaurants, dining, and a multitude of local breweries. 

Through Asheville’s recent growth, particularly as a tourist destination, the cost of living in the city has increased significantly, while workers’ wages have not. Asheville’s cost of living, which is roughly 4% below the national average, is higher than the larger nearby metropolitan areas of Charlotte and Raleigh. However, the Asheville area is lower than the state’s major metro areas and significantly under the United States average. The poverty rate in Asheville is 13.8%, meaning 13.8% of the population lives below the poverty line. 

Both addiction and homelessness have long been central topics of conversation in this growing city, and even more so in the past several years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep reading for more information on addiction and homelessness in Asheville, as well as the many initiatives that the city has taken to address these issues. 

Notably, the Asheville area is also home to top-notch addiction treatment programs, whose sole mission is to help individuals who are struggling with drugs and alcohol find their way to lasting recovery.  

Addiction In Asheville

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared an opioid epidemic in the United States. This epidemic has touched every part of the country and has had a large impact on the citizens of Asheville and surrounding areas.

 According to Buncombe County’s—the county in which Asheville is located—website, there were 265 opioid overdose emergency department visits in the county in 2018, along with 606 community Naloxone reversals reported. 79 Buncombe County residents died from unintentional opioid overdose deaths that year. According to the Western North Carolina Healthy Impact Community Health Survey conducted in 2018, nearly half (47.4%) of adults living in western North Carolina (WNC) report that their life has been negatively affected by substance abuse (by self or someone else). 

Addiction Initiatives In Asheville 

In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, the state of North Carolina as well as Buncombe County have developed action plans and initiatives in prevention, harm reduction, public awareness, accountability, treatment, and wellness. Buncombe County has partnered with nonprofits, faith communities, public organizations, community advocates, and beyond to work together to address this crisis and create solutions. 

Many of the initiatives have now been operating for several years, such as  “Drug Take Back” events, which are ongoing efforts in coordinating with the local sheriff’s office, police departments, and firefighting departments to make it easier for residents to safely dispose of unused medications. Education and awareness events such as the Student Opioid Summit focus on the prevention of substance use disorder and awareness involving schools, students, and parents. The Syringe Services Program, which began in 2019, provides sterile injecting equipment, Naloxone, hygiene items, peer support services, and referrals to primary and mental health care. Continuing physician education has also been emphasized as an important part of opioid addiction prevention, and as such, over 1,000 medical providers have been trained via Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) on safer prescribing practices.

Individuals are also urged to do their part in their daily lives, simply by bringing attention and awareness to the opioid epidemic to friends and family, and safely disposing of unused painkillers. 

Homelessness In Asheville 

Recent data comparing the number of homeless individuals in Asheville from 2020 to 2021 shows that in 2020, Asheville’s homeless population totaled 547. This includes 482 individuals in shelters, and 65 unsheltered homeless individuals. In 2021, the total decreased to 527, with 411 sheltered. However, the number of unsheltered homeless individuals increased significantly in 2021, to 116 unsheltered. 

This change is addressed in a statement provided by the city of Asheville, who wrote, “That change highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population and our community’s service system.  Adhering to COVID protocols such as creating distance between beds, dedicating rooms as quarantine space for incoming clients, and requiring negative COVID tests for entry has resulted in decreased bed capacity throughout our community.” 

Homelessness Initiatives In Asheville 

There is a multitude of non-profit organizations and initiatives working to end homelessness in Asheville, North Carolina. Homeward Bound of WNC is one such organization that works tirelessly to help individuals experiencing homelessness get help. 

Homeward Bound WNC’s approach to ending homelessness since 2006 has been using the Housing First model. The Housing First model is explained as efforts to quickly move people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing and to provide voluntary support and resources to help maintain housing stability and individual well-being. Homeward Bound WNC has helped 2,236 individuals move out of homelessness, and according to their data, 92% of those individuals did not return to homelessness at 12 months after. 

The city of Asheville is also taking strides toward ending homelessness by securing funding for more permanent housing options. In June 2021, Asheville City Council voted unanimously to help fund the purchase of a Days Inn hotel in the city, to be converted to a permanent housing location that will hold 85 housing units for individuals currently experiencing homelessness. 

Get Help In Asheville, NC 

If you or someone you love has developed an addiction or dependence to drugs or alcohol, or has relapsed and are wondering how to get help, we encourage you to reach out to the professionals at Oasis Recovery, located in the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and mental health services. Recovery is always possible. Our experts work with you to design a treatment plan that fits your needs. Common treatment programs include:

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Full-time Addiction Treatment on campus
  • Aftercare Services

Contact us today for more information about how our programs and services can help you get your life back on track.

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