WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling’s city council approved the creation of a city position meant to coordinate efforts addressing homelessness on Tuesday.
In a narrow vote of 4-3, the city council passed the ordinance for creating a Homeless Liaison and Functional Zero Program Coordinator position within the city administration, working under the city clerk.
The proposal was approved in previous weeks by the council’s Health and Recreation Committee, chaired by councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum. She told MetroNews last week community members are concerned more encampments are popping up every year, including the areas under bridges, along Wheeling Creek and the Heritage Trail.
“The city of Wheeling has an opportunity and more importantly an obligation to address this issue. Both because it has moral implications and economic implications for our community,” Ketchum said on June 27. She has worked on creating this position since elected last June.
The position will be a temporary one with a 3-year sunset. Ketchum said the city approved putting a 3-year cap on it as the position relates to a specific program with goals.
In the job description it lists a role as “Maintains real-time data relating to Wheeling’s unsheltered population providing accurate reporting and statistical information as requested.”
Ketchum, who represents Ward 3, previously told MetroNews she is hopeful the position can build bridges back to local service organizations from fragmented relationships.
“This is a role that is split between administrative duties, being able to collect data, understand the data and report on it, Ketchum told MetroNews. “While also being a face to face with our community, homeless community service organizers to coordinate those services. To understand and illustrate what those pressure points are.
“We may have ideas but we are not experts. It’s irresponsible as a council to expect to make decisions that are informed from an expert perspective. Whether we move a camp or knowing what these folks need.”
Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott voted in favor of the ordinance along with Ketchum, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman and councilman Ty Thorngate.
Councilmen Ben Seidler, Jerry Sklavounakis and Dave Palmer voted against the resolution.
Ketchum told MetroNews on Tuesday that the position would be hired by City Manager Robert Herron. She said Herron would identify funding, which could be through CDBG funding or the American Rescue Plan, and then open it for applicants.