DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced today that it has invested $250,000 in two Western NC organizations working to end the cycle of homelessness. The investments in Homeward Bound and The Shepherd’s House are part of the company’s ongoing commitment to address drivers of health, specifically access to safe and affordable housing.
“We know that homelessness and affordable housing are issues affecting a growing number of North Carolinians,” said Cheryl Parquet, director of community engagement and marketing activation at Blue Cross NC. “That is why, as an insurer with deep roots in the state for over 85 years, we must be a part of the solution to removing barriers and improving living conditions for our neighbors to achieve their best health possible.”
Research has shown that a lack of housing can have a significant impact on one’s health and wellbeing. Individuals experiencing homelessness are less likely to have access to nutritious food options and preventative care, and can struggle to manage chronic health conditions. Amid a global pandemic where homelessness is projected to increase by 40 percent by the end of the year due to the rise in unemployment – these health risks are only exacerbated.
Prior to COVID-19, 45 percent of renters in the Asheville region were cost-burdened, meaning over one-third of their income was spent on housing costs – making it difficult to meet other needs.
Since 2006, the Asheville-based nonprofit Homeward Bound has served Buncombe County individuals, families and veterans with housing, case management and support services. Last year, the organization moved 90 people into housing and prevented homelessness for 88 people.
- Blue Cross NC’s $150,000 investment will assist 100 individuals in obtaining documentation such as background checks, application fees and birth certificates needed to apply for housing. It will also help aid in the prevention and end of homelessness for 40 people by covering fees such as security and utility deposits and rent and utility arrears needed to obtain housing or keep from losing housing.
- While nearly 4 million people choose Asheville as a destination for overnight stays, on any given night, there are 547 residents of Asheville and Buncombe County who experience homelessness.
“This funding could not have arrived at a more critical time,” said Meredith Switzer, executive director of Homeward Bound. “With Blue Cross NC’s support, we have already helped 82 people obtain documentation needed for housing, ended homelessness for 15 individuals, and prevented homelessness for 59 individuals who are among the most vulnerable people living in Buncombe County. We are grateful to Blue Cross NC for this impactful gift.”
The Shepherd’s House
As the only homeless shelter in Mounty Airy, The Shepherd’s House provides emergency shelter and supportive resources to empower individuals and families in Surry County and the surrounding region to achieve self-sufficiency. Last year, 86 percent of its clients graduated into safe, affordable housing with jobs.
- Blue Cross NC’s $100,000 investment will support the organization’s capital campaign to build a new 12-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom facility that will increase its housing capacity from 18 to 48 residents per night. The new facility will enable The Shepherd’s House to hold its supportive services, which range from budgeting education to medication management, in private offices. It will also include a commercial kitchen that will house a free culinary program, which will in turn provide meals to those in need, including delivery services to seniors.
- Out of Mount Airy’s total population of 10,208, 26 percent are living in poverty.
“We are beyond grateful for this investment from Blue Cross NC,” said Mary Boyles, executive director of The Shepherd’s House. “One of the most important lessons we as an organization have learned throughout this journey is that partnerships are priceless, especially for non-profits. This partnership will assist us in furthering our mission of restoring hope and rebuilding lives for all that enter our doors of hope.”
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is committed to making health care better, simpler and more affordable. We have been driving better health in North Carolina for generations, working to tackle our communities’ greatest health challenges. We serve our customers and communities of more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at www.bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
 Housing and Health Partners Can Work Together to Close the Housing Affordability Gap, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 2020
 Analysis on unemployment projects 40-45% increase in homelessness this year, Community Solutions, May 2020
 Asheville, North Carolina Region Housing Needs Assessment, AshevilleNC.gov, March 2020
 The Economic Impact of Tourism in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, September 2018