The main factor in homelessness is simply lack of access to housing. Other factors—like mental illness or substance abuse—make it worse but are not the primary cause. It’s important to recognize that homelessness is not, at its root, a failure of morally flawed and irresponsible individuals, but of a flawed and heartless economic system.
Asheville is not alone in its challenges. But we have an opportunity to be a leader nationally in mitigating the struggles of our unsheltered neighbors. We can encourage smart growth and revisit our zoning restrictions. We can help people get what they need most: a safe roof over their heads.