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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

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#RapMonsterRadio Will Interview You On Our Hip Hop Rap Radio Station

Get interviewed by Lil Dee of Rap Monster Radio.  Rap Monster Radio is an online hip hop radio station with more than 60,000 listeners a month in over 180 countries.We will interview and provide you with an mp3 copy of the interview.Get the worldwide exposure you deserve.…See More
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A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 21, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm, join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her "Taking the Stage" workshop participants, for an enchanting evening of storytelling in picturesque Black Mountain, NC. You'll enjoy a variety of stories and storytelling styles featuring tellers Jane O Cunningham from Rome, GA; Gabriele Marewski from Black Mountain, NC; Christine Phillips Westfeldt - Fairview,…See More
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Writers Circle around the Table

We are located in Hayesville, NC. In April we begin our new season with outstanding Poet Mike James. Mike will read at Writers' Night Out in Blairsville, GA on Friday evening April 13. On Saturday, April 14, he will teach a class at my studio.Formally SpeakingThis class will focus on different types of traditional poetic forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina, and will also include other verse forms such as erasures, found poems, prose poems, and last poems.Contact Glenda…See More
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Rachel Carson, Silent Spring Chautauqua History Alive at UNC Asheville, OLLI Reuters Center, Manheimer Room

April 15, 2018 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Step inside the revolutionary book, Silent Spring as its author Rachel Carson reveals the reckless destruction of our living world. Written more than 55 years ago Silent Spring inspired the Environmental Movement and has never been out of print. And now you have a chance to ask the author, Rachel Carson, how this came to be. But these aren’t just performances. They’re a chance to step into Living History – to ask questions and go one on one with a women whose books shaped our country and our…See More
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Mom in Her Writing Nook ...

She was working on the "About the Authors" section of "Echoes Across the Blue Ridge" when I captured this one morning. Though you can't see it, her coffee cup was within gentle reach that morning. Roxie is at her feet.
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Latest non-fiction book

In 1945 Indiana prohibited marriage between a white person and anyone with more than one-eighth "Negro blood." Yet Daniel (black) and Anna (white) gave up family, friends, and eventually even country to create a life together. Their 42-year marriage…
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"Rob, Thanks for putting this into one document. I've been following the narrative in the Citizen-Times. I find it an added resource for my next writing project. In 1910 my husband's grandfather (1866-1947) showed up in Missouri and said…"
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Then and now: people looking for decent homes

This week’s article about Pisgah Legal Services (www.pisgahlegal.org, 828-253-0406), and last week’s, about Mountain Housing Opportunities (www.mtnhousing.org, 828-254-4030), relate to the holiday spirit of caring for the less fortunate.

 

PHOTO CAPTION

De’Shae, a Pisgah Legal Services client, is seeking healthy, affordable housing for her family.  Photo courtesy De’Shae and Pisgah Legal Services.

 

“Let’s say it’s a hundred years from now,” I said to Jim Barrett, executive director of the non-profit legal aid corporation, Pisgah Legal Services, headquartered in Asheville, “and we look back at the history of our people in the 2010s.  What are we seeing?”

He answered by asking challenging questions.

“With tourism flourishing once again, but on a huge scale, where are all the people in the tourism jobs going to live?  Is it going to be like Aspen, where they’re bussed in?  Are they going to be housed by hoteliers because otherwise they can’t get enough labor?”

He also noted that the largest growing demographic groups are twenty-somethings and retirees, “and a lot of those folks can’t find places to live.”

Nearly half (44.2%) of renter households in a four-county region (Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania) are cost-burdened, the Bowen Report determined.  Cost-burdened means that over 30% of household income goes toward rent.  And 20.7% are severely cost burdened, with over 50% of income going toward rent.  It’s bad for many homeowners, too, with one quarter cost-burdened and one tenth severely cost-burdened.

That’s over 50,000 households in danger of not having a home or of being in trouble with food, health care, child care, and transportation.

It’s a national trend, and evictions are a part of it.

“Evictions used to be rare,” Matthew Desmond writes in his new book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”  “Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, even though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today.

“These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders.  There are moving companies specializing in evictions...There are hundreds of data-mining companies that sell landlords tenant screening reports.”

Landlords, including scrupulous, caring ones, Desmond reveals through stories, are also pressed up against the bottom line.

 

100 years ago here

 

In the 1920s and during the Great Depression, people had extended families, industries and country farms on which to depend.

At the top of Haw Creek in the 1930s, Beatrice Creasman and her mother, Annie Ethel Bartlette Creasman, worked hard, from 7 a.m. on, without leisure, tending to crops, chickens, and a milk cow, Beatrice told me in 2001. 

Beatrice’s father, John Baxter Creasman, had acquired the family’s 31 acres by working off the $900 price on John Berghouser’s poultry farm.  Beatrice’s intellectually challenged brother, Theodore, supported himself doing odd jobs in fields and at the Antioch Christian Church. 

Church was the recreational and religious outlet, and Theodore went every Sunday, always requesting “Jesus, Lover of my Soul,” which he sang a half-beat off, the pianist, Nola Mae Allen Rhew, reminisced.

In Beaverdam Valley, Alma Mae Walker Palmer, living on Spooks Branch Road, walked to Merrimon Avenue to catch the bus to work at the old St. Joseph’s Hospital.  She heard that Windy Calloway, an alcoholic World War II veteran, lived in the woods in an abandoned school bus, every window broken out; and she brought him blankets.

People living in West Asheville in the 1920s and 30s had moved there to have farms near city jobs, and could graze their livestock in pastures now covered by Patton Avenue development.

Post-1970 development changed that way of life, and agencies began to respond to the fall-out. 

In 1974, Richard Nixon passed the Legal Services Corporation Act, leading to the birth of Pisgah Legal Services in 1978.  Barrett joined the agency in 1983, as did Scott Dedman, who went on to help found Mountain Housing Opportunities.  Last year, PLS helped more than 4,000 people in our region with housing problems. 

The year 1974 also marked the start of Section 8 subsidies—a voucher program that shifted emphasis from public housing, which was seen to concentrate poverty, to the integration of low-income residents into neighborhoods with single-family homes.

Twenty years later, there was a counter-trend.

When Asheville sought public input for its Uniform Development Ordinance, completed in 1997, there was widespread sentiment for downzoning neighborhoods to exclude multi-family homes. 

The need for affordable housing, which often meant “Smart Growth” as opposed to the American Dream of suburbia, ran up against historical trends: neighborhood resistance to tourism- and density-related encroachment; lower-wage jobs, also related to tourism; and opposition to increased property taxes and thus government social programs.

“If you don’t have a living wage to support what it costs for child care, housing, and health insurance premiums,” Barrett says, “you have to have income supports such as housing subsidies...You have to have one or the other or we have people living on the streets; and our children don’t have upward mobility because they don’t live in stable housing.”

 

More stories

 

“I’ll never forget,” Barrett recalled, “my daughter sat beside a girl in middle school who was very talented...and they started talking, and my daughter brought this story home to me.  It turned out (the girl’s) mother had been Pisgah Legal’s client for domestic violence.  The mother died suddenly, and we had to help relatives adopt the little kids so they could stay in their home.  It just came home to me that this is right next to us, all this anguish and difficulty.”

Another Pisgah Legal Services client, who gives her first name, De’Shae, had a problem with her health due to her living conditions.  Her asthma “had worsened to the point of becoming bronchitis,” she told her lawyer, and her four-year-old son was coughing and struggling to breathe.

“Black mold is infesting (our) home,” De’Shae related, sickening her family.  Her landlord wasn’t fixing the problem, and she didn’t have money to move.

“After working with our staff attorney,” Katie Russell Miller, Pisgah Legal’s Director of Community Engagement reported, De’Shae “moved into a decent place, which she rented...Unfortunately, the place was sold and she and her kids had to move in with relatives, which is where they’re currently living.”  It’s “difficult...to find housing that’s decent and that she can afford.”

Bob Elias, a Vietnam War veteran with the disability of depression, found a place to live in Asheville when he moved here to be near his son.  Bob had just lost his wife and three of his dogs.

He’d enjoyed an illustrious photography career, working for Esquire magazine, and had helped shoot the cover in which Lt. Calley, surrounded by Vietnamese, held a Vietnamese baby in her lap.

First, Elias rented a place off Lynn Cove Rd. from a Chicago landlord, and had to move because the bottom floor flooded.  He moved to another place, where the local landlord okayed Elias’ dog, Henry, for which Elias had a reasonable accommodation letter.

When Henry died, Elias related, his landlord forbade him from bringing in another dog, and Elias’ bureaucratic nightmare began.

Elias told how weeks went by without his landlord responding to his appeals.  Elias upped his medication.  Months passed as Elias futilely sought help from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and from the N.C. Human Rights Commission, whose investigator suggested that Elias sue his landlord.

“They just don’t care,” Elias said, and suggested it was partly a workload problem.

Elias contacted Asheville’s Building & Safety Department and reported violations that his landlord hadn’t fixed—a sewer backup in his own place; roof damage from a fallen tree on a nearby residence.  Three more months went by as Elias’ lease expired and he faced eviction.  He still had no dog.

Finally, Elias contacted Pisgah Legal Services and negotiated a resolution with the landlord, who was also enjoined by the city to make repairs to his rental properties.  Elias found another place, and has a new dog, Gracie, whom I met making friends at Earth Fare, where Bob and I met to talk.

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler; email him at RNeufeld@charter.net.

 

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