Kairos West Community Center

A Social Justice Community Livingroom

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Improving Asheville Transit and Becoming an Active Citizen

Many of you living in the Asheville community have probably seen the new ART buses driving around town, but how many of you have used them?  Maybe you have ridden in the past, but not recently.  So, you may or may not know that the bus system in Asheville is changing thanks in part to the dedicated members of the Better Buses Riders Assembly, an initiative of Just Economics of WNC. 
The issue of improved public transit is one that affects many of those in the Kairos West community, and it is our goal at Kairos West to empower those in our community by increasing social justice to decrease isolation and build connections. There is a bus stop right outside of our location, with many in our space relying on it to navigate around. We heard from those in our community about the issues they have had with the ART buses, through casual conversation and group discussions. As interns at Kairos West, myself and Nicole wanted to learn more, and Milly suggested we attend the Better Buses Riders Assembly on behalf our Kairos West community to learn more and relay their concerns. 
Two weeks ago, my colleague Nicole and I had an opportunity to attend the Better Buses Riders Assembly, a public meeting on February 1 at the United Way.  I am new to the area, so I had not yet ridden the ART buses, but like many others, at times in my life, I have relied on public transit to get around. This meeting was an excellent opportunity to learn about the history of the bus system in Asheville, the new changes that have taken place and the continued plans for improving it in the future. It was also so refreshing to see citizens engaged in meaningful change through asset-based community development leading to increased social capacity. Or, in other words, building on the strengths that already exist in the community –  AKA the people – and bringing them together to help inform emerging community leaders on the steps to enacting change.
For members of the Better Buses Riders Assembly, this looks like holding public meetings, joining the transit committee (an advisory board appointed by the multimodal transportation commission), speaking to elected officials, holding rallies, and voting for change at the ballot box.  As Social Work graduate students, we had the pleasure of learning from those in the community what reliable access to public transit means to them; how increased hours of operation, safer bus stop locations, and the addition of stops in high traffic areas can determine the success of so many in our community. I advise that we all take on the role of more active citizens finding an area of interest that you can sink your teeth into, whether that be public transit or not. But I do suggest you do learn more about the issues facing your community, and if you live in the Asheville community, that might mean attending a Better Buses Riders Assembly meeting! In more urban areas like DC or New York, public transit is a way of life and, as Asheville continues to grow, this will be true for us too. For those of you who have not yet ridden the bus, I suggest taking the time out and try the bus system taking note of its pros and cons – I know I will.
Kairos West Intern
MSW student

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What’s Up with Ever-Changing Services?

by Nicole St.Charles, WCU Social Work Graduate Student

As social work graduate students, Olivia’s and my field practicum requirement brought us to Kairos West.  With a month under our belts, we still have to remind ourselves that at Kairos West, being is more important than doing.  What can I say – we’re students; we are trained to do!  

Our top priority has been to familiarize ourselves with the myriad local resources available to those living on the streets in our community, and anyone else who might be seeking anything from transportation and housing to childcare and dental services.  What we’ve learned thus far is that the information about these resources is scattered.  If you’re not sure where to look or who to ask, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the search before it even starts.

Our question:  What’s up with that?  There must be a better way.

We’d heard through the grapevine that there was once a book with all of this information in one place – a holy grail of resources organized by category, with a description and contact for each – and we went on a bit of an odyssey to track it down.  

But alas, this book was nowhere to be found – and trust me, we did our homework.  NC 2-1-1, Health and Human Services, The Family Justice Center, RHA (and probably many more that we didn’t even know to contact) all had the same message for us:  The information for these service organizations, and the organizations themselves, are constantly changing – just as soon as you get it printed on pretty pamphlets, it’s old news!  It requires constant maintenance, causing service organizations to shy away from the feat.  So, what’s that about?  Why does this information change too quickly to keep up with?  We asked around, and found a basic consensus.

So, here’s the thing –

  • Funding is a whirlwind!  The funding of government agencies and nonprofits is fluid and they may not be able to allocate funds today for services they’d provided yesterday.
  • Movin’ on up – and down.  This same funding phenomenon, coupled with nonprofits’ constant fluctuation in size, sends these organizations searching for spaces to grow into or to downsize in – changing their address.
  • Who you gonna call?  Reallocation and dissolution of funds also affects the positions and roles within these organizations.  Less funding could mean that a role is dissolved altogether and their responsibilities redistributed to other positions – changing contact information for services.

A complex set of obstacles, to be sure, but is there a better way?  Stay tuned for more on the subject, or comment with your thoughts/ insight/ any relevant experience!