Haywood Street, downtown Asheville, March 2020./ photo by Jason Sandford

Editor’s note: Clare Hanrahan is an Asheville community activist and coordinator of Elder & Sage Community Gardens in downtown. The Page Avenue garden on city-owned property started about three years ago when older residents living in the Vanderbilt and Battery Park apartments started planting flowers and herbs along Page Avenue and Haywood Street.  Republished with Hanrahan’s permission.

By Clare Hanrahan

Walked thru downtown Asheville about 8:30 pm Tuesday, from Grove Arcade area to Food Co-op. The streets belonged to the unhoused poor, gathered in clusters here and there or walking alone, burdened with heavy bundles and unmet needs.

Most benches were claimed as the hard beds of the most vulnerable. One man was fast asleep beside his wheelchair in a doorway of the vacated Flat Iron Bldg.

Few lights were visible in the many empty hotel rooms. All restaurants were closed and the only workers were cleaning up or making take-out deliveries.

No sweet music offered by street corner buskers, no pub-cycle shrieks from its cargo of drunken revelers, no La Zoom bus jokesters, or Piano Bar truck intrusions. No tourist throngs to navigate along the way, and only the sad stumps of Haywood Street trees and the fat alley rats scurrying about.

How much has changed so quickly.

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