The Transylvania Times -

Sharing House Diary: Affordable Housing? Not So Much


January 11, 2018

Courtesy photo

Forest camps like this one took a beating during the past few weeks, when snow and bitter cold had everyone shivering. Folks who live in camps cannot afford Transylvania housing, which requires around $800 a month to rent decent lodgings.

By Jackie Curtis

You may have noticed that our "needs" list that appears every Monday in The Transylvania Times often asks for camping supplies. The reason for this is quite simple: a lot of our neighbors live in their cars or in forest camps because low-income housing is scarce to non-existent in Transylvania County.

I talk to eight to 10 homeless people every day. I've learned that far too many Transylvanians simply can't afford to live here. Some hang their hats on their car or truck's rear-view mirror. Others make their homes in the woods.

We advise homeless people to look in other counties for affordable homes. Here in Transyl-vania County it costs $800 a month for a decent apartment; folks we see tend to have part-time minimum wage jobs and are lucky to scrape $350 together for rent.

What you can get for $350 is likely to be grim – scanty insulation, a broken-down furnace, leaky doors, holes in walls and windows, infestations and other delights.

That's why many homeless families live in cars, trucks and campsites deep in the woods. Some of these campers might leave someone to guard their precious belongings while the rest of the group work at low-paying, part-time jobs in town.

Those who don't have the luxury of camp guards often end up coming to us after their belongings were stolen while they were at work. One woman whose camp was plundered had to walk from her forest campsite to Blue Ridge Community College in her shower clogs before she was able to come to us to replace some of her clothes.

Camping is great fun when you're spending the weekend communing with nature, but not so much when that's where you live. Where will you bathe? What about bears? Winter is here.

We help by providing basic necessities – pots, pans, bowls, plates, knives, forks and can openers. Sometimes we share sleeping bags, blankets, tarps, ground covers, lanterns and Styrofoam coolers – if we have them.

Right now, we especially need blankets of all sizes: king, queen and full.

By the way, did you know that we provide about 175 hot showers every month so Transylvania's homeless don't have to bathe in cold mountain streams or dance under an icy waterfall? Your donations of hotel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving gear, etc. and money to help us pay for hot water are very welcome.

What You Can Do

Donate items to reduce the worry of hunger and living out in the cold. Generally, this means items listed in our weekly "needs" box, published every Monday in The Transylvania Times. Con-sider seasonal clothes, too. Warm clothes, coats, socks and shoes are especially welcome now.

Also, donate money and consider giving three hours a week as a volunteer, perhaps here at Sharing House. We have lots of jobs that you can do.

Learn more about what we do at or call Megan Parker at 884-2866, ext. 104 to arrange a tour of our facility.

(Curtis is the crisis assistance manager at Sharing House.)


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