Seeking Shelter: An Interactive Experience of Homelessness in NC

I began this project with a desire to focus on poverty and power differentials within society, and then found myself confronting the topic of unsheltered homelessness. 

 I recently spent 5 days in Asheville, NC, learning about unsheltered homelessness. I hadn’t quite realized before that homeless shelters aren’t always an option. Sometimes there are restrictions- for instance, some require an ID, which my friend Jacob could not provide. Jacob has been in and out of homelessness since his parents split at 13 years old. Over the past year he transitioned from living in his car in Asheville, to living on the streets. 

And it has gotten cold.

I met Jacob in eighth grade at fourteen years old, and then again at seventeen. We spent the next eight years learning a lot from each other, but over the past couple years were disconnected. Seeing him again and spending time listening, following, and learning from him about what it is like to be in his shoes was a bit overwhelming… I still don’t have the words to describe my emotions; I know that at times I felt very anxious, and after leaving Asheville, it took some time for me to process everything.

 Then I started  putting the footage together and my drive to tell his story and the story of unsheltered homelessness was reignited. 

If you are interested in seeing the project, including the Virtual Reality experience, please scroll down or you may open it in a new window: 

Please note that the virtual reality program is known to have complications in the google chrome browser; please open with a different browser. When the wonda VR experience is launched successfully from the project page, there should be a background video and music playing, with buttons that appear after a few seconds. 

Thank you for taking the time to learn about this project; I intend on building on it in the future. 


A Glance into Unsheltered Homelessness in North Carolina




On a given night in NC...
people were experiencing homelessness
1 %
of whom were without shelter
1 %
of whom were chronically homeless

Source: NC 2017 Point-In-Time Count

Meet Jacob, a 28 year old gifted musician and self-described “Jake-of-all-Trades.” Since the age of 13, Jacob has been in and out of homelessness.
At the time of this project, he was living without shelter in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jacob discusses his experience of homelessness in Asheville, NC
Seeking Shelter: A VR Experience

Barriers to Shelter:

No Pets Allowed

First-come First-Serve

Time Limit

Not Open 24 Hours

Single Gender Only

Requires ID

Requires Sobriety

Requires Faith-Based Activities



Most frequent questions and answers

Make a Donation to NCCEH

The North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies on public support to continue advocating for an end to homelessness. 

When making a contribution, you can choose how you’d like it to be used:

  • Donate to help NCCEH end homelessness in North Carolina by advocating for effective policies, adequate funding, and proven solutions to homelessness.
  • Donate to Back@Home to help storm survivors move-in to new housing. 
  • Donate to our Alphonso Williams Champions for Change Fund to help people who have experienced homelessness become advocates and use their voices for change.
  • Donate in honor of a loved one, friend, colleague, or neighbor.

Conducting a Point-in-Time Count

Conducting a Point-in-Time Count is important for all communities. The count provides a snapshot of who is homeless on a given night. This information can be used to plan local homeless assistance systems, to tailor programs to meet existing needs, and to raise public awareness of homelessness.
The Point-in-Time Count is a one-day, statistically reliable, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the country. 
HUD requires that all Continuums of Care conduct a Point-in-Time Count each year during the last ten days of January. Programs that have beds dedicated to serve homeless individuals and families also conduct a bed inventory for the Housing Inventory Count. 

What time is the count?

The 2019 Point-in-Time Count will be held the night of Wednesday, January 30th.
Communities should count people where they are on that particular night. On the night of the count, emergency shelters and transitional housing programs should count the persons who are residing in their programs. Permanent supportive housing programs and rapid re-housing programs should also count their residents. While these folks are no longer homeless and are not included in the total number of homeless persons, it’s important to gather data on how many people we’ve moved into permanent housing.
Street counts of unsheltered homeless people should be done the night of the count. If you are planning on including a services-based count (counting unsheltered homeless persons at service agencies, such as soup kitchens), you would do this during the day after the count. Remember, if you do a services count during the day after the PIT, you’ll be asking “Where did you stay last night?”  If the person stayed in a shelter or in transitional housing, you know they have already been counted. 

Resources for conducting a count

This website provides a searchable database on assistance: 

North Carolina 2-1-1

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