Enduring poverty is relentlessly invalidating. The profound biographies unlearned, the guttural pleas unheard, the weather-beaten faces unseen, each aggression against humanity more soul nullifying than the last. This past week, several stories were published about our neighbors camping on the Department of Transportation parcel beside Haywood St. For the journalistic care and airtime given to these children of God, for the amplification of their routinely silenced stories, we’re grateful.
The media coverage, however, did provoke a series of conflations that require correction. Homeward Bound did not issue notices of eviction. Instead, they connected campers with resources and transported people elsewhere. The Asheville Police Department did not arrest anyone or use force. Instead, their Community Engagement Division practiced radical patience and gentleness, offering a promising glimpse into profoundly reimagined law enforcement. And Haywood St. did not issue a complaint or initiate the forced removal of our unhoused neighbors.
Instead, since the encampment started with one residence months ago, we’ve been in daily communion. As the tents grew in number, so did our relational response: sharing life together in nylon living rooms, marveling at the sun setting west, de-escalating bare-knuckled domestic disputes, passing heaping plates of Thanksgiving lunch, speculating about when the excavator might show up, and discovering a lifeless body.
What began yesterday as a tent city, ended as a mass displacement, crime scene, unrehearsed funeral, and a fatal reminder that the need for a low barrier shelter and affordable housing is now.