CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Danny Jones says the city’s homeless population is growing, noting it’s “the worse it’s ever been.”
Jones referred to the city as a “mecca” for homeless people who have taken advantage of free services in town.
“People do come here to partake of this environment that don’t want to work and don’t want to live by any rules,” Jones said on his talk show “580 Live” heard on MetroNews affiliate 580-WCHS.
About 66 free meals are available during the week in Charleston, according to Sgt. Paul Perdue with the Charleston Police Department.
On Tuesday’s show, Perdue said many of these people travel by bus from out of state. They come to Charleston because of those services, he said.
“When they go to the computer and they search up cities, we rank up there with services with some of the largest cities in the country,” he said. “You have addiction counseling, there’s crisis intervention, dental clinics, disability services, domestic violence services, I mean I can just go on down the list.”
The issue is widespread throughout the city, Perdue said. Complaints have been reported in downtown Charleston, Kanawha City, North Charleston, near Barlow Drive, the city’s West Side and East End. “It’s everywhere,” he said.
Jones said told MetroNews the city needs to provide solutions. He said it would be “disheartening” to eliminate funding for the services, but something needs to be done to fix the problem.
Perdue said the situation is unfair to those in Charleston who truly care about helping those in need.
“We are tight knit and we do take care of one another and the people that are coming in from outside are just taking advantage of that situation,” Perdue said.
Last year, the city dismantled an encampment known as Tent City along the Elk River after receiving complaints from the Waste Management — the area’s property owner. Several benches from the Lee Street Triangle were removed last fall after the city received complaints about the homeless people who used them.