On Wednesday, January 11th, 2023, Asheville Police Department (APD) issued a widely circulated press release stating that 120,000 lbs of “trash” were removed from two “vacant” homeless encampments in West Asheville.
We believe that this press release is part of an ongoing misinformation campaign by the City of Asheville to justify evicting encampments, fracturing communities of care, and broadly criminalizing unsheltered homelessness without creating real solutions.
APD claims that the two camps were vacant, but admit that over the course of two weeks, they forced the people living there to leave. “Services” were offered to the people displaced, but were limited to rides, sharing information about local shelters, and helping people register for a housing list with a months-to-years long wait for placement. We question the utility of these services to people who are chronically homeless and unsheltered.
According to the city of Asheville’s 2022 Point in Time count, 232 (36%) of people without housing were unsheltered, defined as “sleeping outside or in other locations not suitable for human habitation.” These people are criminalized with trespassing laws and ordinances restricting camping. Yet, limited capacity and other barriers to shelter access often leave people with no other choices.
When people camp together in larger groups, they are able to share resources and build community. Providing these camps with basic waste disposal and sanitation services would eliminate the health risks used to justify their removal. Instead, people camping are blamed for these conditions, then forced to relocate with only what they can carry. Tents, shelters, and other necessities must be left behind, and are relabeled “trash.”
APD, city government and anti–homeless businesses use this, coupled with overblown and misleading claims about violent crime in camps, as justification for displacing unsheltered people again and again.
Since the 11th, APD evicted two more camps in East Asheville, just ahead of a cold front bringing ice and snow. Camp evictions in February and December of 2021 under similar conditions sparked widespread public outrage. Despite this, conditions for people living unsheltered have mostly remained unchanged. Misinformation about “litter” and crime, alongside unfulfilled promises of long-term solutions, have redirected public attention from ongoing violence.
Not only are camp sweeps violent, they are an ineffective and expensive strategy for managing unsheltered homelessness. There are more humane, longer-term and lower-cost alternatives. More on this, along with other updates, coming soon. In the meantime, check out our website, avlsolidarity.noblogs.org, for more information including links to sources cited for this statement. Please share and spread the word!
Solidarity & Love,
The Aston Park Defendants