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.