Effort to help Asheville homeless man reveals community's true colors

For the past two years, Michael Provard has become a fixture at Trade and Lore Coffee on Wall Street. Provard has been homeless since 2002. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) - Our Persons of the Week were willing to make the first step to help those in need in downtown Asheville. We salute a group of caring people who reached out to a homeless man, renewing his faith in humanity.

"I know it's awesome. I'm still trying to soak it all in," said Michael Provard, who for the past two years has become a fixture at Trade and Lore Coffee on Wall Street. You might say it is his home away from the home he hasn't had in years. He's been homeless since 2002.

That's where you will often find the artist painting with a laser sharp focus.

"They just let me sit in my corner," Provard said.

You can find him at the shop about 13 hours of the day, working on his latest piece.

"A priest said that ... it was very Byzantine, a style of art back in the 4th century," he explained, pointing to his art.

"Someone had to take just a tiny step," said Jonathan Flaum of Farm to Home Milk, who sees Provard every time he makes a delivery. "I learn from his wisdom."

"There's a lot of people that need in this town, a lot of homeless people, oh yeah," Provard said. "Being homeless takes a toll on your mind, body, and spirit."

Flaum and others came together to give Provard hope and a place to live. The owner of Trade and Lore, Sarah Winkler, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough cash for a security deposit, rent, and furnishings.

They have almost achieved their goal of $5,000 so far. They hope that money will also help jump-start a business model that gives Provard the income he needs to keep a roof over his head.

Carson Lucci and Eric Burleson of Over Easy Cafe on Broadway Street also supported the cause with an exhibit to support Provard. Because of the outpouring, he now expects to move into an apartment on May 1, 2018.

This is big news for a man who often creates art to escape the cold reality of homelessness.

"So, I try to sell a painting and get a cheap room for the night," he said of the daily pressure. "Sometimes I can't, so I sleep outside."

Often he settles for a set of downtown steps.

"That's how my life has been, one extreme to the next," Provard explained, still in disbelief of the effort that paints a portrait of compassion.

"Pure love, man," Provard said.

"We're all interconnected," Flaum said. "We all need each other. Michael needs something. I need something, too."

"My humanity is bound up in yours," Provard responded. "For we can only be human together."

Over the years, a lot of people have seen him downtown, but many never gave him a second glance.

"If you make a little noise and a little motion, other people say, 'Yeah, how can I help?'" Flaum said.

That's when you see a community's true colors.

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