BeLoved Asheville seeks to cultivate a transformational way of life rooted in community, creativity and equity. They bring together Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color and people of low wealth to create innovative solutions to challenging problems. These solutions center around racism and systemic inequities, housing and food insecurity, poverty, poor health and inequities in healthcare. They work to create home, health, equity and opportunity for all.
“Listening is the most important thing we do because people in the community lead you to what needs to be done on the ground,” says Ponkho Bermejo, co-director of BeLoved Asheville. He adds, “Many times people have the solutions, but they just need the tools. We are working with people who are solving problems in their own communities.”
Dogwood has partnered with BeLoved Asheville with four grants, all with a unique focus. Grants have supported BeLoved Asheville Village, BeLoved’s racial healing and equity work, PPE distribution as a part of their community response to the pandemic and a street medic mobile outreach vehicle.
BeLoved Asheville Village is the region’s first micro-home village of deeply affordable homes with equity. Dogwood provided a grant for site preparation. BeLoved has built their first model home that won awards in the 2020 Parade of Homes. They will break ground on the other 11 homes in the Village in September. BeLoved Village will house 25-35 people in these craft-built, furnished homes with a focus on community, sustainability and equity. This is a pilot village for a replicable model for affordable micro-housing in the region.
The organization was able to provide nine counties in WNC with PPE during the height of the COVID-19 crisis by partnering with Dogwood to supply masks, hand sanitizer and culturally-relevant information to low-income communities. BeLoved was grateful to support the people of WNC in protecting themselves, their families and their neighbors.
Dogwood was also able to support racial healing programs created by BeLoved Asheville where community members were provided safe spaces to share their stories, celebrate their culture, build community and be about the collective work of racial healing. Additionally, the organization helps community members raise their voices to advocate for policies that create racial equity, including programs that center around policing, housing, food, health and education.
Through a Dogwood ION grant, BeLoved Asheville purchased an outreach vehicle for BeLoved’s first-in-the-nation street medic team made up of current or formerly homeless people. Medics take care to people where they are – campsites, bridges, public parks and out on the streets. The vehicle is a powerful tool for serving the medical needs of the homeless community, especially as the pandemic continues.