ASHEVILLE’S HOMEWARD BOUND, HOUSING VOUCHERS & MORE WITH BEN FEHSENFELD | AREN 021


(upbeat music) – Alright guys, Rodrigo Afanador here, back with another episode of
Asheville Real Estate News, at episode 21. Just wanted to remind
everybody we’ve moved over from YouTube channel A, which
is Asheville Cash Buyers, and we’re now on Asheville
Real Estate News, so make sure you follow
us and subscribe there. Check us out on iTunes. We’re really excited about this episode. We’re gonna get into a little bit of the numbers, talking with Ben here, kind of as a followup
with episodes 15 and 16 with Justin Edge, and episode 18 with Zach,
where we talked about REACH. So we’ll kind of do a small
recap about that in a moment, but I’m gonna let Ben introduce himself. Thanks so much for joining us, and yeah, go ahead and tell everybody
kind of who you are and what you do. – Great, thanks a lot
for having us, Rodrigo. So I’m the Communications
and Annual Giving Manager at Homeward Bound, and so I also am the
liaison for the agency with the Real Estate Agents
Combating Homelessness fund. So that you had Zach Adams
on, from Prime Mortgage who’s kind of a mover and
a shaker with that program, and it was Ryan McCullough
from Keller Williams who came to us originally with the idea back in March and said hey, I wanted to do something about
the issue of homelessness because he was kind of discovering and trying to understand what’s going on, and so he came to us with this idea, and so we said key, we already work with some real
estate agents around town, but this could be a really great way to get them more involved, and especially now that we
have a strategic initiative to end chronic homelessness, so when people have been
homeless for a year or more and have at least one disabling condition, and so that initiative tied together well with the REACH fund. – Absolutely, and so that
was March of this year? – This year. – So it’s not even a
year end program, right? – No, now we’re six months in. – It’s crazy how fast things
move sometimes, isn’t it? – Oh yeah. It was an idea at the right
time, with a great name, and a lot of energy in the
group that got behind that, so it’s really taken off. – Absolutely. So Ben, are you from Asheville yourself? – I’m from Michigan originally. – Michigan, really, okay. – Moved here, but I moved
here from New Mexico year and a half ago. I worked with a anti-poverty
nonprofit before this, so been working with
nonprofits for a while and really am passionate about everyone having the same rights and being able to access the rights, so when I moved here
and saw Homeward Bound, talks a lot about the right to housing and everyone should live inside, I thought, this is a
great group to work with. – Very cool, very cool. So, you all got contacted
by Ryan in March, and I know it’s kind of
still the beginning and, in the last six months, is there anything that you’ve
just been really surprised on as far as what’s happened,
or community involvement, or anything you’re going like yeah, this was the good idea at the right time and just anything that
provides excitement around it? – Yeah, I mean we’ve had some agents get really excited themselves, and there are a few agents
who have started donating every time that they close
on a house for a client. – And that’s the goal, right? – And that’s the goal. – That’s the theory, that’s where you’re
trying to move for, right? – Yeah, we think when agents help someone either buy or sell a house, that’s a great time to think
of people who don’t have a home and make that connection. And also, when people are
moving into the community, I moved here myself a year and a half ago, and when other people are
moving into the community, I think that’s also a great
time for them to understand that this is an issue
our community is facing, homelessness and a lack
of affordable housing, and that real estate agents but also just regular community
members can get involved. – Yeah, it’s an easy way for everybody to be part of the solution. – Yeah. – Very cool, so what are
some of the numbers that– I’m a numbers guy, I like to
know kind of what’s happened, quote on quote, what the issue is, and then how you can measure
if you’ve been successful in addressing whatever
the problem might be. – Right. – Can you give us whatever
the important statistics are around this? – Yeah, right now there are 167 people in the community who are
currently chronically homeless who we have contact with, maybe just a handful of others who we don’t have any contact with, but almost everyone who
is chronically homeless comes through our
programs at a given time. And when someone’s chronically homeless, the last study we did,
which was now 10 years ago, was that it costs the
community about $23,000 a year. – 23 thousand. – Yeah, and that’s a
combination of shelter costs, hospital costs, because
when people are homeless sometimes they use the emergency room instead of having a primary doctor, or sometimes people are
arrested for loitering or trespassing, being in the
wrong place at the wrong time, and so of course the longer
you’re out in the streets, the more you have a chance of running up those costs
– Any one of those two places. – Yeah, and so when we
put someone into housing, the first year it only costs $10,000, and then in the years after,
the average cost goes down. – So it’s decreasing. – It decreasing. And that’s a combination
of the rent that we will, through our federal grants
will help pay peoples’ rent, and any income they have,
they pay 30% of that toward their rent and
then we’ll cover the rest. And also the case management, because we have case managers
who will work with them to make sure that once that
someone who was homeless is now in housing, that they
adjust to living indoors, having a neighbor, paying the rent. – Paying bills. – Bills, you know, the
relationship with their landlord, all of that stuff, especially
when someone’s been homeless for extended period of time, that stuff that you’ve sometimes forget or sometimes you never
learned it in the first place and so we’ll check in
with people as needed. – Trying to make sure that the transition goes as smooth as possible. – Yeah, and that’s why, one other number, that’s why 89% of the people
that we put into the housing don’t become homeless again. – 89%, wow that’s a really
good success rate, obviously. – Yeah. – How far back does that number track? So when is that stat– – Yeah, that tracks back to
2006, which is when we started. – So just over 10 years. – Using the housing first approach, where we will put people
into housing as a first step, and then support them
with any mental help, or substance abuse, or getting a job, any of those kinds of things
we’ll support people with after we get them into housing. And so when people are in housing, it’s a lot easier for them to address some of those other issues
that they wanna work on. – Right, okay, that’s really exciting. 89%, definitely love to see
that trend keep going, right? – That’s for sure. – So going back to the
REACH program a little bit, do you mind expanding what that acronym is and maybe whatever the
specific call to action is around REACH and how to get
plugged into that exactly. – Yeah, so it’s Real Estate
Agents Combating Homelessness, it’s a designated fund, and so that goes to the
strategic initiative to end chronic homelessness, and so it’s a combination of, when we receive that money as a cut, we spend it on a combination of salaries, and some of the development
costs for the program to get off the ground,
because it’s very new, and to get involved, people can go to homewardboundwnc.org/reach, they can make a donation there, there’s also my email, they
can email for more information, we love to get people on tours, and we do those at our AHOPE day center where people will come
while they’re homeless to get their mail, to take a shower, a lot of kind of the basic services, and so those tours we offer every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to noon, or– – Do you need to RSVP? – Yeah, you need to let us know. – So we’ll put up your
email then, if that’s okay, so if somebody’s interested in doing that, then they can reach out to you via email? – Yep. – Okay, very cool – Or they can go on our website. – Go on the website. And we’ll provide that link as well. – Great. – And if you’re a real estate agent and you’re wanting to do the
commission check you said, that you have some agents
who are doing every closing, is that something that’s
through the website as well or is there a different
way to set that up? – Well there are a couple ways. They can go to the REACH page
and make a donation each time. A couple agents have set
up a monthly donation, just ’cause it’s easier for them, and then there have been agents who have worked with
lawyers at the closings so that the lawyer actually will take part of the commission and send it off. – Okay, so straight off
the closing statement. – Right. – Okay, wow. – And some agencies have
decided to make that part of the closing process as well and let agents do that directly, and others the agent has
to take that initiative. – There’s some flexibility depending on how they wanna get
involved or at what level. – Yeah, and we’re really working on, once an agent decides to join us, then we will put their name on our webpage and on the REACH fund Facebook page and try to give shout outs and really let people know that
that agent’s participating, and we have a little REACH
fund badge that we’ll send out where agents can then say, I am a participating
member in the REACH fund. – Wow that’s really exciting. – Yeah. – So obviously you do more than just REACH at Homeward Bound. – Yes, for sure. – I was like, maybe that’s a– I read a couple of your articles, as I mentioned before we got started, so it seems like you all have a lot of different projects going on, and affordable housing’s also something that I think ties into this
and would love to know, from your side of things, we’ve had a couple of
different conversations as I mentioned at the beginning, I talked to Justin Edge, and he, with Pisgah Legal, as far as doing community development or economic development around that, but you’re being kind of on
the same side of the table, but maybe from a different seat, how do you see affordable housing playing out here in the area and are there any projects or initiatives that Homeward Bound is
part of outside of REACH? – Yes, definitely. The effective vacancy
rate in affordable housing is 0% in our community. Obviously we don’t have
enough affordable housing, that’s, I think, pretty well known. And we have three people on our staff who are working full time
to recruit landlords, to rent to our clients, and we rent from a lot
of private landlords who have a small home
here, an apartment there, a mobile home here, and so we kind of piece together enough, but if we had the affordable housing, we could house every single person today. – So what’s your 30
second, 60 second pitch for a landlord to get
involved with Homeward Bound? Why should they rent to
somebody in your all’s programs? – I would say, a couple reasons
to get involved with us. First is that we will
guarantee the rent often, and so collecting the rent
is sometimes a lot easier. And by getting involved with us and renting to one of our clients, you’re also helping to end homelessness. And we have our case managers who will work with both
the client and the landlord and the landlord can call our case manager if there’s an issue. And so that’s a relationship
that you don’t have if you’re a landlord and you’re
renting to just person X, and when there’s an issue, who
are you gonna call normally, but if you rent to one of our clients, you can actually call us and we’ll help work through any issues that come up. – Mediate it or talk. – Yeah, exactly. – Okay. – So those are all great
reasons to work with us. – And who do we contact, or
who does a landlord contact to have that conversation
or get more information? – Our housing specialist is Jenny Moffitt. I can give you her email or phone number. – Yeah, excellent. Sorry, side rant, obviously, we’re landlords here on our side, we’re plugged into the
investment community, and so I think there’s a lot
of sometimes misinformation about the benefits or pros and cons of working with housing
renters or whatnot. But yeah, so what else
from affordable standpoint is going on and what can we do about it? – Well, we have a really exciting project we’ve been doing for about
a year and a half now called the Woodfin Apartments, and the city is leasing us a 18-unit apartment building downtown, so we’re the landlord and
we have moved in 18 clients who have been chronically homeless, some for 20, 25 years, and then onsite we have security, and we have case management, and the security helps people
who are now in their own homes decide who they want to
let into their home or not, sometimes you have friends who might come over and cause issues. – Or not leave. – Or not leave. And so the security will
help them be able to say, you gotta get out. And then there’s case management onsite, and the case management is so if a tenant has an issue that comes up that they wanna work
through, they want help with, they can actually go and see
their case worker every day. – Oh wow, okay. – And so that’s really been
huge over the year and a half that these 18 people, a lot
of whom have been evicted numerous times over the
last however many years. No one’s been evicted, which is huge. That’s a real big success
for these individuals and for this program, and so this makes us
think that if we build, right now we’re looking at
maybe 40 to 50 more units, if we develop or find in the community about that many more units, then we could house everyone else who needs that level of support, who is currently chronically homeless. And so that would be huge
if we’re able to do that, and that would be great for each person and great for the community,
and the tax dollars, and the community resources that can be freed up for other people. – Absolutely. Wow that’s really exciting. So, any leads on where
these other 40 or 50 doors, or apartments, or units
are gonna come from, or is that still part of
the brainstorm process? – Well, we’re definitely working
on talking with developers, talking with the city, we’ve been in touch with Pisgah Legal too who works a lot with affordable housing, and so we’re working on
some different leads, we don’t have yet a specific concrete plan that we can talk about today, but we’re getting there. Hopefully in the next few months we’ll have plan that we can talk about. – Okay, very cool. So are there any other numbers
or facts that we should know around either affordable
housing or chronic homelessness here in the Asheville area
that we should be aware of? – Yeah, I would say we
have 500 people a night, approximately, who are homeless, so that’s the whole population, and then chronically homeless
is one part of the population. And one issue that we have
is that our community, like most places around the country, also produces homelessness, so we’re moving people
out of homelessness, but at the same time,
people move into homeless. Pisgah Legal does a great job when there are legal
issues with an eviction that the landlord has
done something illegal, but if the eviction is just
because of unpaid rent, then there’s not a lot in our community that exists right now. – Right, yeah. – So we’re putting in place a
prevention program that will, right now we’re gonna have a
pilot program to begin with, and that will help stop people
before they get evicted, before they get homeless,
help them stay where they are, and then hopefully we’ll be able to have a lot of success
with the pilot program and expand it, because we
do need to stop the inflow into homelessness if we want
to end chronic homelessness. – Try to address it at its
root cause essentially, right? – Yeah, exactly. – So, I’m guessing a big part
of that’s affordable housing, right, so it kind of goes
right back into that, but I think it seems like there’s a lot of different definitions for what is affordable
housing or workforce housing and sometimes they’re different,
sometimes they’re the same, at Homeward Bound, how
do you all define it or how do you look at what
affordable housing is? – Well it’s actually a definition that comes from the federal
government that we use, and this is partly because
we get the federal grants and so they limit the amount
that we can pay for rent each month from the grants. So this year, it’s actually
$660 for a one bedroom, rent and utilities that we
can pay that’s affordable, and if we find a place that’s $700, we can make up that $40
difference with private funding, but the federal government
with only cover $660. So I believe that’s 30%
of the area median income. – So you do the 30% AMI is where, so it needs to be at 30% or lower for it to be considered
affordable housing. – Right, and of course like you said, there’s also affordable
that’s more for workforce, teachers, or people who
earn a little bit more but it’s still, in this community, not always affordable for them. – True, very true. – But, and then for the
people we work with, a lot of times people won’t have a job, but surprisingly, I would say, between a third and a half to the people, even while they’re homeless, either have a job or are actively looking, so that’s one thing
that gets underestimated is that a lot of people who are working, even full-time jobs, sometimes
just can’t afford housing. – Yeah, it’s obviously
a challenging aspect. That’s why the city and
the county, it seems like, almost any institutional organization here has some sort of opinion or hand in trying to solve this issue or whatnot. – Yeah. – Well Ben, thanks so much for coming on. I think, going back to
everything you said, it seems like it’d be really good for people who are
interested in either REACH, or the homelessness, or
the affordable housing to do a tour, right? So, do you mind, just
before we sign off today, just giving a quick summary
of what happens on the tours and kind of what they
can expect from that? – Yeah, for sure. We do our tour at our AHOPE day center, so people will see it in action, what’s happening there on a daily basis. And we spend an hour, talk a little bit about
the general situation of homelessness in our area, how we as an organization have evolved, and what we’re doing today, and how we think we’re gonna be able to end chronic homelessness. And we talk about different
ways people can get involved, whether that’s volunteering, donating, donating gently used
furniture and household items to help furnish a home for someone moving out of homelessness. So we’ll talk about all of those aspects and actually walk through AHOPE and meet some of the people who are there and see the different services
that people access there, and this really answers a
lot of questions, I think, and is motivating for a lot of people to take that next step. – Very cool. Awesome Ben, well once again, thanks so much for coming on. And for everybody out there
who’s listening or watching, thanks for tuning in, episode 21. Follow us on Instagram,
Facebook, check us out, YouTube iTunes, et cetera. Let us know if you have any questions, we can do a followup interview
if that’d be helpful, or don’t forget to get in touch with Ben if you wanna do the
walkthrough on Thursday or to get more information. Thanks Ben. – Thank you very much, Rodrigo. – Absolutely, have a good one. (upbeat music)

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