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  • Writer's pictureDiocese of WNC

Winter Safe Shelter Welcomes Dozens During First Year

An ecumenical effort to provide shelter for the underserved among the unhoused has welcomed more than 30 people in off the streets since it opened in December.

The Winter Safe Shelter takes certain vulnerabilities into account, making it a high priority to serve intact families, LGBTQ+ and people of color.

“We have a particular scope. Historically, shelters have not been affirming for LGBT folks, so people don’t feel comfortable in a lot of shelters around town. Intact families have a harder time finding a shelter where they can be together. People of color are over-represented in the unsheltered homeless population,” said the Rev. Mike Reardon, assistant rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Asheville.

The shelter came about through a partnership between Counterflow and three Asheville churches: Grace Episcopal, Trinity United Methodist, and Grace Covenant Presbyterian.

Funding for the shelter has come from a handful of grants, including a $10,000 Justice and Outreach Grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.

The 10-bed shelter is intentional in its approach. It employs part-time staff to organize the meal schedule, intake list, and other operations. The shelter also offers peer support staff who sleep at the shelter overnight.

Peer support comes from someone who has a history of substance abuse, homelessness, or other factors and is now in recovery.

“By virtue of their lived experience, they are able to offer people a particular kind of comradery,” Reardon said. “We thought if we could create an environment where a lot of the staff were people of color and people with a lived experience of homelessness, then people would feel more comfortable.”

Volunteers at the shelter help with preparing meals, which are provided every evening and shared together.

“I find that I’ve gotten to know the people and they’re lovely and interesting. Their stories are amazing,” said Kim Hayes, a volunteer from Grace Episcopal Church, Asheville.

More than 70 percent of the people who have come through the shelter have found housing and jobs.

An artist who currently resides at the shelter, Joe Rob, is bringing together artists for the "Diamond in the Rough" art show March 25 from 3–8 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Asheville.


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