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Ann Miller Woodford posted an event
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Ann Miller Woodford at Gospel Singing program: Liberty Baptist Church, Sylva, NC & Exhibit; WCU Mountain Heritage Center

February 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
WCU's Mountain Heritage Center and curator, Ann Miller Woodford, will present an exhibit on African-American far western NC community, music, and history, based on Ann’s book, When All God's Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina.The exhibit is based upon Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of the African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools.The exhibit examines…See More
Feb 16
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Rytson

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darknessby Rob NeufeldEVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.             The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett…See More
Feb 13
Tipper posted a video

Kudzu Kickers - Waltz Clog

In case you didn't know-we dance too! Our clogging team is called the Kudzu Kickers. In this video we were practicing for an upcoming festival. The Pressley ...
Feb 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Memories and Food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.A few years ago I…See More
Feb 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 8
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Jewish Studies special events March 23-26

Center for Jewish Studies 35th Anniversary Events from press releaseUNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a series of special events on and off campus March 23-26. Rick Chess talk and readingUNC Asheville Professor of English Richard Chess has been director of the CJS for the past 25 years and will deliver the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture on the celebration’s opening night. A poet and essayist, Chess will offer a vision of Jewish…See More
Feb 7
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Feb 7
David E. Whisnant updated their profile
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Second Novel at Jackson County Public Library

March 3, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm
The Jackson County Public Library and City Lights Bookstore are co-hosting an event with David Joy on Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. He will present his second novel, The Weight of This World, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library. Set in the Little Canada community of Jackson County, The Weight of This World is a story of three people haunted by their past. A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he…See More
Feb 4
Tipper posted a blog post

Hiccup Cures

Do you ever get the hiccups? Every once in a while I do. If I have them once during a day-I always have them again before the day is over. My record is 5 different times in one day.We've all heard drinking water or holding your breath is the remedy to stop hiccups. According to John Parris saying this tongue twister will cure them:Hickup, snicup, rise up, right up! Three drops in the cup are good for…See More
Feb 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The German experience settling WNC

The German migration to Western North Carolinaby Rob Neufeld PICTURE CAPTION: An immigrant family comes down the Philadelphia Wagon Road in the mid-18th century, as had the George Schuck family done, and as this Scots-Irish family is doing in an 1872 “Harper’s Weekly” illustration, titled, “The…See More
Feb 3
Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

March 6, 2017 from 7pm to 8pm
The launch of Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987).In an eleven-day interview Daniel and Anna Winters looked back with honesty on a marriage challenged by moving from Indiana to Mexico City. The book is about an independent white woman, a talented black man, and the times in which these two remarkable people lived.See More
Feb 3
Tipper posted a blog post

How About Some Chocolate Gravy?

A few weeks ago Granny called me one Saturday morning to tell me she had sausage, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy ready if I wanted to come down and eat. It tickled her to death when I told her she was calling me too late - I had already made and eaten my own ham, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy. I grew up eating chocolate gravy on Granny's biscuits. We didn't have chocolate…See More
Jan 30

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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