By Emma Castleberry
Homeward Bound has opened a new permanent home for 87 of Buncombe County’s chronically homeless community members. Compass Point Village provides safe, stable apartments to these individuals just in time for the harsh winter weather. “These are folks who have been living unhoused for at least a year, and often for decades, and they will be inside this winter rather than battling the cold to stay alive,” says Eleanor Ashton, who was the senior resource development director for Homeward Bound prior to her retirement in November.
This is Western North Carolina’s newest and largest Housing First-based apartment complex that provides Permanent Supportive Housing services on-site. The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) model has demonstrated effectiveness in resolving chronic homelessness by reducing clients’ interactions with the criminal justice system and other public systems. “Compass Point Village is not a shelter or transitional housing,” says Ashton. “It is permanent housing. In addition to a fully furnished studio apartment, residents have access to a peer support room, a library, an outdoor courtyard and a communal dining room. These spaces help foster a sense of community, allowing residents to feel connected to and invested in their environment and one another.”
Through partnerships with agencies like Sunrise Community for Wellness, MANNA FoodBank, Appalachian Mountain Health and the Equal Plates Project, Homeward Bound is able to provide a range of services at Compass Point Village, including behavioral health, social and educational activities, job training, meals and a medical clinic. Compass Point Village residents are selected through a community-based process called Coordinated Entry, which determines which individuals experiencing chronic homelessness are the most vulnerable. “They are prioritized to get housing placement and support for as long as they need it,” says Ashton.
Facilitating move-ins at Compass Point Village has been a powerful experience for case manager Sabrina Oakley. She remembers move-in day for her client Jeremy Trull, who goes by the name Tree. Tree has been living on the streets of Asheville for 13 years.
“On the way to Compass Point Village, he said the streets have beaten his spirit these last couple months,” says Oakley. “The will to survive was dimming for Tree.” Upon opening the door of his new apartment, that changed. “I could visibly see the weight of the world melt off this man,” Oakley says.
On that same day, Oakley helped Roy Worley move into the first real home he’d had in 30 years. Upon arriving, Worley went to each appliance asking, “Is this really mine?” “I just laughed and said yes it is,” Oakley remembers. “Roy fell to his knees in tears and said a prayer of gratitude and thanks and it was the most humbling experience I have ever had.”
Oakley recalls another client, Magic, who completely transformed after moving into his permanent apartment. “I have known Magic for five years and when he slept everything off, he came down to the courtyard to sit and I did not even recognize him,” she says. “It was like he had washed off 20 years of being in survival mode. That is what having a home does to our clients. It allows them to sit for a minute and realize they are safe and have everything they need without a fight. They transition into these beautiful humans that they were meant to be all along.”
More than $16.5 million has been raised for the purchase and renovation of Compass Point Village, from a wide range of individual, business, foundation and government donors. Homeward Bound has launched the Creating Hope and Homes matching gift challenge for 2023-24, so all donations made through the end of this year will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $75,000. To donate or learn more, visit HomewardBoundWNC.org.