After weeks of headlines on Asheville’s homeless camps where residents overdosed and neighboring landlords complained about garbage and crime, a public voice in stories and conversations about the crisis is remained silent.

“The mayor needs to fix this, make it a priority,” said Mark Rosenstein, who lives on Riverview Drive, across from a camp in the River Arts District. “She is the leader of the community, elected to lead this community and solve these problems. You have to ask him directly, “What is your position on this and how much of a priority is this.” And it would be sad if she ignored this question.

During his decades as chef and owner of Restaurant Asheville, Rosenstein was one of the leaders who started the farm-to-table movement. He has volunteered many hours on Asheville city councils and committees, most notably as the first president of the Asheville Downtown Association.

Rosenstein said there is a leadership vacuum. He and many of his neighbors have said they have lost patience with the city’s ambivalence and complacency in executing a lucid plan when it comes to managing or dissolving camps of without. – shelter like the one on the ridge in front of Rosenstein’s house.

He’s watched as Duke Energy, who owns the property where the homeless have set up their camp, and Asheville leaders have played hot potato politics with how and when to close camps when issues like garbage, fires, emergencies and overdoses occur.

“Every time I call Duke they say it’s not their problem,” Rosenstein said. “I say it’s your problem, you own the property, and it’s a safety and sanitation issue. I haven’t heard from anyone.

Last week News 13 reported on the RAD encampment, but despite repeated requests for coverage from this camp and others, Mayor Esther Manheimer never responded to repeated requests to talk about the crisis or to do A declaration.

“Leadership should tackle a city’s toughest problems. If you are a leader, your job is not to ignore, your job is to get people on the issues. And by not doing that, the message is that it doesn’t matter, ”Rosenstein said.

News 13 asked Manheimer to respond to Rosenstein. She emailed the following statement:

Homelessness in Asheville is a complex crisis. And represents one of the biggest challenges our city has faced in recent years. To effectively tackle homelessness, the city has worked and continues to work with many partners in our community such as County, State, Veterans Administration, Hospital, MAHEC, Vaya Health, de many faith-based and non-profit institutions such as ABCCM, Rescue Ministries, Homeward Bound, Sunrise, Pisgah Legal Services, United Way, to name a few. Bringing these partners together and creating a collaborative and coordinated response is a constant effort. The ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated and exposed this crisis and tested our efforts and resources. “

In the email, Manheimer said she didn’t shell out and didn’t say if she sat down with News 13. She wrote a second paragraph that addressed the residents’ concerns that were voiced. on News Thirteen for months.

“The people of Asheville are compassionate and caring, but they also expect community safety, cleanliness and all people to obey the law,” said the mayor. “There is certainly a wide range of opinions on how this crisis should be handled. City Council hears from people from all walks of life. Council tries to lead with compassion while managing homelessness in collaboration with partners of the city by using best practices aimed at achieving the best results, to end homelessness. ”

City spokeswoman Dawa Hitch said staff have asked the campers at the RAD camp to leave before Christmas. Hitch acknowledged that there were still people camping and said staff were working to find a safe way to close the camp.

It took months for the city to close a homeless encampment along Interstate 240, where crime reports included multiple overdoses and one reported rape.

Rosenstein, as well as all those who have followed the homelessness crisis, realize that the problem is complicated. He knows that Duke Energy owns the property where the RAD camp is located and said the company has done nothing to shut it down.

“From the human suffering of homeless people to public safety and public sanitation, who else is on the job to say we need to fix it,” Rosenstein asked.