Homeless man found dead sometimes stayed at local shelter
The Western Carolina Rescue Mission hopes the community comes together after Joshua Stebbins, a homeless man, was found dead in West Asheville on Thursday. Police are investigating Stebbins' death as a homicide.
Gary Norris found his friend with blood on the side of his face in a shed he often slept in behind a Patton Avenue gas station.
“He never bothered nobody or nothing like that. He was just Josh,” said Gary Norris. “He had blood all over his face, so I shook his foot. I went in the store, and I called 911.”
Stebbins sometimes spent time eating and staying at the Rescue Mission overnight. Executive Director Micheal Woods said he never caused any problems.
“He wasn't someone who stayed here often, but he knew the ability to be able to stay here,” said Woods. “A lot of folks who knew him from here are going to have different responses, so me and my staff will be ready to be able to literally walk people through some of those things.”
When Woods heard the news of a homeless man being found dead, he feared it would be someone he knew.
“This is a loss of life. A loss of life that maybe didn’t have to be lost,” said Woods. “He was someone’s son. He was possibly someone’s brother. Possibly someone’s husband and father.”
The nearby gas station owner, Rocky Patel provided News 13 with pictures of Stebbins from surveillance video where he's seen buying beer Wednesday night. Patel says he often saw Stebbins panhandling nearby.
“Soon as someone gave him money, he buys beer. I asked him why don't you buy food, he said ‘No I need beer. I don't need food,’” said Patel.
Woods says people shouldn’t enable panhandlers.
“If someone's asking for a dollar for a meal, instead of giving them a dollar for the meal, tell them where they can go to get the meal,” said Woods.
The Rescue Mission serves more than 700 meals a day. Woods has been thinking all day about how they could have prevented the tragedy, but understands that he can’t give help to someone who may not want it. He’s hoping people will be proactive in talking to homeless individuals about the many resources available.
“As great of a city as we are, we have the opportunity to do even more,” said Woods. ”With understanding that, it's going to take all of us together to problem solve and begin to move forward.”