CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Homelessness is present in West Virginia as it is in other states, but those with the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness believe it can disappear.

“We don’t have the kind of numbers overall that we see in many other places, particularly urban places, so with the right strategies we think homelessness as we know it is something that certainly can be ended,” Coalition Executive Director Zach Brown recently told state lawmakers.

Brown spoke with committee members at the state capitol about some of those strategies, citing that it starts with getting better coordination and collaboration among various agencies in the state.

“No one agency has all the services and all the housing available to cure all of homelessness but together we have quite a bit of resources in West Virginia that if we can start to connect those dots a little better we think that we can see a lot more success,” said Brown.

On top of that, agencies and the state need to find more efficient ways to use the resources that are available. Brown said it’s not about needing more resources, it’s about finding ways to better use the many resources that are currently available.

“Taking a step back and looking at what our policies are now, how we’re approaching things as a state, how we’re approaching things as agencies and looking at how we can be smarter with that,” he said.

Brown told lawmakers how the coalition is currently working to slowly break down systemic issues that have been in place for a long time as well as educating people about the resources and options available in their counties and encouraging local ownership of the issue.

But the most important thing that can be done to reduce homelessness is to provide people with housing and services to go along with it.

Brown said it’s roughly 4 times more expensive to leave people on the streets than it is to provide that housing and those services.

“Unneeded law enforcement interdictions, crisis services, you know, repeated visits to the ER,” he said. “We all bear that cost. We bear that cost as a state.”

Forty-three people died in housing over the past three years and 5 or 6 people that the coalition knows of, have died on the streets. Brown said if nothing is done; the problem is only going to get worse.

“People will continue to be discharged into homelessness, we’ll pay a higher cost to no real affect and more people will die on the street,” he said.

Brown mentions that things can improve in the Mountain State by both housing people and stabilizing our housing.


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  • Be Kind

    Everyone's rock bottom is a little bit different.

    Yes, there are many people who are extremely knowledgeable and well-versed at using and abusing the system. Will that ever change in the foreseeable future? Probably not - but why should that ever stop us from being kind to one another? Kindness does not necessarily equate to be a financial handout, by the way.

    I am so thankful that the first time I got sick in my life my doctor didn't state that he would refuse to take me on as a patient on the off-chance I may get sick again in my lifetime and need his assistance again down the road. That's sort of how social services works - the assistance is there for those most in need and they aren't necessarily denied the help if/when they need it again.

    It would take a lot before many of us became literally homelessness. But how true is that that so many West Virginians are truly living paycheck to paycheck. If you were to become homeless, how quickly would you go through your emergency fund? How long would it take before you would wear out your welcome with friends and family? What if you were injured and unable to return to work - but not eligible for disability compensation? What if you lost half of your household income due to the medical condition or death of a spouse? There are numerous scenarios that are quite plausible that could lead to one's rock bottom that do not include substance use/abuse and one's unwillingness to work.

    Whether any of us like it or not, or agree with the circumstances surrounding one's homelessness, this is a real issue. It is present in West Virginia. I would challenge anyone reading this article to educate themselves about this issue - or volunteer your time at a local shelter. Any time you see a panhandler, rather than give a handout, call your non-emergency dispatch number so that trained professionals can inspect the situation. More than likely that individual will move along or be provided with resources to places that can assist with their emergency needs.

  • billyed

    Let's look at Wal Mart's, McDonald's, Koch Bros. and other Corp's making record profits. 4 of the Walton's and 2 of the Koch brothers are the top 10 riches people in America. Walton's, Koch Bros. and other Extreme Wealthy Corps. want to deny these people a fair wage to make a living. By making them work 2 and 3 jobs, work without making a fair wage, no health insurance and other benefits. Let's vote for politicians, that will give the working middle class and poor families a chance to make a living. Who do you think the Republicans are supporting? Republicans want to give tax breaks, deny workers rights, to help the Walton's, Koch Bros. and other Corp's making record profits. Republicans are destroying the middle class and expanding the poor.

  • Patriot

    Questionable most have poor credit ratings and can't rent anything or buy in credit and besides would you hire them off the street or would you require they get help, cleaned up and taken care of first? The problem is here, much caused by drugs, alcohol and mental illness being perhaps the most common cause of the problem. It's hard to imagine this but when someone is borderline mentally disabled they don't institutionalize them, they set them free and many veterans come home with PTSD and or a Traumatic brain injury from fighting in wars that hurt their abilities to make good judgement calls so are they bums or should we help them? It's about educating people to the truth and the truth is we fall short on taking care of those less fortunate.

    • Question

      Hey Patriot, how many of these homeless have you taken home with you?

      That's what I thought.

    • Clark

      I'll give you a little anecdote about teachng my son about those standing around begging for money.

      We pulled up to a red light. Standing right there was a man with a "Down on my luck. Will work for food" sign. He was standing right under a Taco Bell sign with the words, "Hiring Crew Staff."

      I rolled down my window and here he came, hand out. I sincerely and kindly said, "Excuse me, I understand you will work for food, but have you applied inside that Taco Bell? They apparently are hiring. They will let you work for money and they probably have free meals for their workers."

      He told me to "go to hell" and "get the fu## out of here." Right in front of my 8 year old son.

      Yep, down on his luck all right. Just another one who doesn't want to work and just wants things handed to him.

      Another story for your education.

      I currently work with a man staying in the shelter. He has a job, but just needs some time to save up for an apt. The people at work are getting up as much as we can to help him with a deposit so he can get out of the shelter.

      Just this morning, I asked him how many are at the shelter. Around 60 he replied. How many of those have jobs? I asked.

      About 7, he said. He then went on to tell about how none of them want to work. They come in high and drunk all the time. They cause problems. He shook his head.

      Those are the people you do-gooders "help." You're not helping them at all. You're sending them straight to hell in a hand basket.

  • Patriot

    That's spot on WV Vets, most of the spoiled folks that make comments like those two have never served anyone but themselves not had to struggle with coming home from war.

  • WV Vets

    Surfs up and Clark, it's obvious you have hatred for all homeless, but you are clueless to the plight of homeless veterans that represent 35% you call bums. If you worked as a welfare worker it's obvious you also carried that hatred towards your clients and I have to wonder how many suffered under your oppression and little control devices you had to prevent many from getting help. I say your email should be traced and you should be investigated and if your at work now then shame on you, you bum for wasting your employers time and money writing on the Internet when you should be working. I believe in Karma and one day it may be you that needs the help to feed your family and let's hope you don't get a social worker like you.

    • SurfsUp

      Yeah, shame on me for being at work. Shame, shame, shame on me for working and paying taxes to provide for the governmental programs that support people who REFUSE to work.

      As for those 35%, I'm all for helping those who CAN'T help themselves. I am against the other 65% who REFUSE to work. Learn the difference between CAN'T work and WON't work. The overwhelming majority of those with their hand outs fall in the WON'T category.

      As for my situation, I had a dad who walked out us when I was 3. My mom raised 4 of us by working 2 jobs. We lived in a small apt. No life insurance, nothing. She died when I was 16. Guess who took care of me? I did.

      I worked by washing dishes and picking up trash along the highway. I slept in my car several nights. I slept with friends. I went to high school so tired some days I could barely stay awake. Then I worked myself through college. I wanted to become a social worker to help others. But, I was seriously disillusioned when I found out that most people only want hand outs. And it is gets worse and worse. So, I got out.

      So, my dear, I've been there. I detest those who REFUSE to do anything but stick their hands out and suck blood out of those, like me, who busted their butts and go to work every day. If they don't want to work, then fine. Then they don't have to eat, either.

      You go ahead and enable these bums to continue being bums. I prefer to kick them in their pants and tell them to believe in themselves and stop being a blight on society.

      • vashti

        just a little bitter are we? i have been there and work in the field as well. i find that day care, transportation and a lack of low skilled jobs are more the problem than lack of trying or laziness.

        having said that yes there are some who are lazy, addicts and scammers. not the majority but some. they are who we see more often so our perception of them is heightened.

  • questionable

    Why don't homeless people get together and rent a place or why don't they take advantage of shelter to work programs etc... There are some fairly simple reasons many of them are homeless; mentally ill (drugs and alcohol too), some like being homeless(gasp it's true!), some are lazy and do not really care to find work, some are not as homeless as they seem- for instance young people who like panhandling and some have made bad choices. As a person who has worked with and watched countless documentaries on the homeless many of them have made terrible choices have yet to realize that the struggle to get back to being not homelessness and part of society is much more difficult than the fall.

  • Mike Dineen

    Hey Clark go out and meet some of the lazy bums you speak about. I have met plenty of people who work but are unable to afford a place to rent let alone buy. I think if you meet some a few homeless people that dark part of you heart might lighten up a bit

    • SurfsUp

      I have met plenty of these people. I used to be a welfare worker. I speak from experience. MOST of these people are downright bums. They won't work. It's not that they can't work, it's that they WON'T work. That is reality.

      Let me give you a little experiment to try:

      Next time you see one of those so-called victims of society, go hand them a job application instead of some money. See what kind of reaction you get.

      Or, the next time you see one of these bums begging for money at a busy intersection that is surrounded by businesses including fast food places, ask them if they applied at any of those places.

      Little hint . . . you won't see any of them get on their hands and knees and thank you.

  • Jane

    We, as a country, admire our military veterans and honor them. But many of them are among the homeless. Are they lazy bums? We need to do more--through our churches, our mental health system, our services to help as many as we can be safe and warm.

  • clark

    Sure it can disappear. By these bums getting off their drugs and alcohol (not to mention their lazy rear ends) and get a freakin job.