This news item expired on Sunday, December 31, 2023 so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.
Thanks to our Homelessness Manager Lacy Hoyle for this look at National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Each year, one week before Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness partner together to sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Occurring this year during the week of Nov. 11-18 more than 700 colleges, high schools, and community groups across the country will come together to provide education, draw attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness, and recruit volunteers and supporters for local agencies supporting those experiencing food insecurity and homelessness. Our community will also be holding a variety of events to highlight partnerships between agencies working to address these issues, as well as provide education and opportunities to support these organizations and the individuals they serve.
Why is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week important? The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine that homelessness has been on the rise since 2017, increasing overall by 6% since then. In 2022, counts of individuals experiencing homelessness reached record highs, with HUD counting around 582,000 Americans experiencing homelessness last year. HUD’s definition of homelessness includes both sheltered and unsheltered individuals. Sheltered homelessness includes people who are living in domestic violence shelters, transitional shelters, safe havens that serve homeless individuals with severe mental illness, or hotels/motels. Unsheltered individuals may be living outdoors, in cars, abandoned buildings, or in other places not meant for human habitation. Concerningly, rates of unsheltered homelessness across the nation are also trending upward, with most racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups disproportionately impacted. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that an estimated 17 million families, or 1 in 8 U.S. Households, experienced food insecurity at some point in 2022 and here too, data demonstrates that rates of food insecurity are significantly higher for racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups. The American College of Physicians reported in 2022 that food insecurity has become a threat to public health in America.
In our community, the Point-In-Time (PIT) count is conducted annually to get a snapshot count of individuals experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. Conducted on a single night in January each year, the PIT count is conducted by communities nationwide, and is intended to be an unduplicated count of people experiencing homelessness within the community. Our most recent PIT count was conducted on Jan. 31, 2023, and showed that there are around 402 sheltered and 171 unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness here.While this is slightly lower than last year’s count, this total of 573 unhoused individuals is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic counts. Additionally, in our area, more than 8 in 10 children experience poverty, and 1 in 4 children in Western North Carolina do not have access to three square meals daily.
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week represents a time when we can come together as a community to share knowledge and identify resources to end hunger and homelessness. It invites us to consider joining efforts to help people in immediate need, and to take part in identifying and supporting long-term solutions. Haywood Street Congregation, a local urban ministry, will be highlighting collaboration between service agencies, faith communities, the County, and the City throughout the week of Nov. 11-18 with a variety of events ranging from the Homelessness Learning Series provided by the City of Asheville, volunteer trainings for Code Purple and ABCCM’s Transformation Village, and tours of the Haywood Street Congregation Campus and Homeward Bound’s Permanent Supportive Housing Project, Compass Point Village.
Other notable events include Lunch at the Crossroads at First Baptist Church of Asheville on Thursday, Nov. 16, and an awareness gathering facilitated by the Buncombe County Homeless Coalition at New Belgium Brewing on Sunday, Nov. 19. To see the full calendar of events, visit Haywood Street Congregation’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week event schedule.