Over the course of the past year and a half, Buncombe County Health and Human Services has been involved in a community listening project in communities across Buncombe County, including the Swannanoa Valley. County leadership wanted to learn more about how the needs of low income residents were being met in each community, what services were successful, what community members saw as areas for improvement, and how the County could help link residents with programs already in place. As part of the project, interviews were conducted with a variety of people, including businesses owners, members of the faith community, school leaders and representatives from various nonprofit organizations.
The Swannanoa Valley is fortunate to have a number of service-oriented groups and projects that received high marks for their work on behalf of the community. These include: Hand in Hand, the winter homeless shelter at First Baptist in Black Mountain, the Welcome Table, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries, English as a Second Language classes at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, the Swannanoa Library, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Swannanoa Emergency Assistance Program (a program of the Swannanoa Community Council), a supportive public school staff of counselors and social workers, and senior services offered by First Baptist of Swannanoa, Eblen Charities, and Mountain Mobility. Other organizations serving the community also received many favorable comments, including Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) and the Swannanoa Business Association. Many of those sharing their thoughts for this project commented over and over that “Swannanoa is a very caring community where residents are loyal to their roots and will help each other out where it is needed.”
An important component of the community listening project was to identify opportunities for improvement. Following are some of the areas for improvement most frequently mentioned in Swannanoa:
- Transportation and pedestrian safety improvements, including the need for better bus service and bus shelters.
- More medical services, especially an urgent care facility where services could be obtained at a reasonable rate.
- More crisis assistance for families experiencing economic hardship.
- Additional support for the growing Latino community – St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church is known for its support of Latino residents and has become a hub for the Latino community; yet with the number of Latino residents increasing consistently, there are still many unmet needs.
- Satellite services from Buncombe County Health and Human Services: Many would like to see a satellite site in Swannanoa, staffed by a County social worker, where residents could get help obtaining needed services, such as food assistance, Medicaid, Work First, WIC, childcare vouchers and immunizations.
Other issues also mentioned as improvement opportunities included better information about the County’s services, more affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and computer skills and technology training.