Homelessness

On this West Virginia Morning, equity is a recurring theme. We hear the latest on the dismantling of homeless encampments in the Northern Panhandle, details about a Black Lives Matter event in central West Virginia, and we hear from a former white nationalist.

Cruz Santos thought her life was finally turning around in early March when she found a job at a shoe store after months of looking.

Two weeks later, the store shut down, throwing her back onto the unemployment lines, and leaving her and her three school-age kids at risk of losing the one-bedroom Bronx apartment where they live.

"I don't know what's going to happen and if they're going to kick me out of my apartment. And that's something hard, you know. You can hardly even sleep sometimes," Santos says.

COVID-19 Accelerated This W.Va. Community’s Efforts To End Homelessness

May 7, 2020
Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

COVID-19 has forced Lou Ortenzio to assume a new role.

“My new job,” Ortenzio, executive director of the Clarksburg Mission in Clarksburg, West Virginia, said, “is getting here in the morning, finding people clustered around and having to tell them, ‘You’ve gotta go.’” 

The mission offers emergency shelter to up to 50 people a night and has a dorm for men and another for women and children, each of which can accommodate about 20. It also offers services and support for those in recovery from drug addiction. The facility went into lockdown in March to protect its residents from contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19.

On this West Virginia Morning, we speak with a teacher in the Eastern Panhandle who went viral on Twitter after writing a poem using her emails. Also, in this episode, we bring you two stories about communities coming together to help their neighbors.

Corey Knollinger / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The stay-at-home order currently in place because of the coronavirus pandemic has changed how a lot of us go about our day. But for those without housing, basic hygiene tasks such as washing their hands, showering and doing laundry have become even more difficult. In Wheeling, one group helped put together a hygiene station under a city underpass to provide for those basic needs. Corey Knollinger recently spoke to Kate Marshall, the head of the HoH Share, about the hygiene station and how to keep those without housing from feeling hopeless during the pandemic.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, where homelessness has been an often-overlooked social challenge in the past, during a pandemic, it’s becoming a matter of increasing significance.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

All over the country and in the mountain state, more and more people are learning what it means to cope with homelessness. That story and more on this West Virginia Morning.

On The Legislature Today, we discuss West Virginia children in crisis and a foster care system under the microscope. The new Senate Select Committee on Children and Families had its first meeting where the dire needs of the state's 10,000 homeless students and 7,000 foster children are the focus. Reporter Roxy Todd also joins our program to lead a discussion with state lawmakers on the issue.

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll take a trip across our region and meet people in Tennessee, to Kentucky, and Ohio. Each of the stories featured highlight an element of life here in Appalachia that is often overlooked. 


Kristi Reyes spends time with her grandson in her new home.
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Cancer was what finally pushed Kristi Reyes into living in her car.

The mother of four had worked all her life, starting at age 7 when she helped out at her family’s furniture store. Most of her work was in retail. It was paycheck-to-paycheck but she kept her kids together and a roof over their heads.

An encampment near the Coal River in the winter of 2019 in Kanawha County, W.Va.
Courtesy of Stan Smith

A pastor in St. Albans has been helping residents of a local homeless encampment called Tent City get back on their feet. But not everyone in the town approves of the work he’s doing.

“They hate to move every night. They hate to bother people,” Stan Smith, a pastor in St. Albans, W.Va., said as he drove around the outskirts of town, pointing out the tucked-away thickets where homeless people have set up camps.

Charles Bowers takes long, quick strides down a worn, dirt path and stops in front of a tall thicket of bushes. He lifts a hand to signal that he's spied something.

He's leading me on a tour of camps made by homeless people in wooded corners of Fayette County, Kentucky, and there, slightly up the hill, is a patch of blue. A tent.

He keeps his voice low to avoid startling those inside.

Rural Homelessness, Made Worse By Opioid Crisis, Presents Special Challenges

Jun 24, 2019
Charles “Country” Bowers revisits the wooded patches where he once lived.
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Charles “Country” Bowers takes long, quick strides down a worn dirt path and is soon in front of a thicket of bushes made deep and tall by spring rains.

He’s leading me on a tour of camps made by homeless people in wooded corners of Fayette County, Kentucky. He stops and lifts a hand to signal that he’s spied something.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, homelessness is often considered an urban problem. But a recent NPR survey found a third of rural Americans say homelessness is a problem in the communities. In the first in a series of reports from the Ohio Valley ReSource Mary Meehan explores rural homelessness. Those working on the issues say it remains largely hidden, even as the region's opioid crisis pushes more people into need.

Matthew Woitunski / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia's U.S. senators say more than $8.3 million in federal funding has been approved for 63 programs across the state that help homeless people.

Charleston Homeless Encampment
wchstv

The issue of homelessness in Charleston has become evident to residents and the city's leaders say they are struggling to solve it.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports Mayor Danny Jones said Charleston is a mecca for people who have "taken over our streets." His comments came during a recent city council finance meeting and he has continued to discuss the topic on his local radio show.

StoryCorps/ Georgetown University

Nicholas Cochran, 27, and Uneeke Ferguson, 21, are students at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, where they volunteer at a catholic worker home.

They discussed their childhood experiences with homelessness growing up in inner city Baltimore and Marietta, Ohio, and how volunteering has changed their views on the homeless population.

Charleston Homeless Encampment
wchstv

Charleston officials have established procedures for how future homeless encampments in the city should be dismantled.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that City Council passed the resolution Monday, nearly a year after Mayor Danny Jones ordered the dismantling of the makeshift camp known as "Tent City."

Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Officials say homelessness alone isn't automatically an exemption from work or training requirements for food stamp benefits recipients.

State Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler tells The Charleston Gazette-Mail that regulations for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program don't allow for blanket exemptions based on homelessness.

Vets, Homeless Vets
West Virginia Department of Veterans Assisstance

West Virginia will use federal money to provide assistance to homeless veterans and their families.

The West Virginia Community Action Partnership has been awarded nearly $2 million by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Housing facilities across West Virginia will receive a total of $6,749,574 under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) Program for projects with the goal of ending homelessness. The funding was announced Monday by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's office.  “In West Virginia, we understand the importance of helping those who have fallen on hard times,” Senator Manchin said in a news release. 

Vets, Homeless Vets
West Virginia Department of Veterans Assisstance

  More than $2.6 million in federal funding has been approved to help homeless military veterans and their families in West Virginia.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller and Congressman Nick Rahall announced the funding Monday from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The program will provide outreach, case management and assistance in obtaining VA and other public benefits. It also will provide rental, utility and moving assistance.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Two communities in West Virginia are trying out solar power, but pooling their resources to do so. They've started solar co-ops, meant to help save them money while benefiting the environment. Community teams in Grafton are putting the finishing touches on their project proposals for the Turn This Town Around Project.

Roxy Todd

David Sneade works as the director and minister at a homeless shelter in downtown Charleston. He was homeless himself, off and on, for about 19 years.

“I wouldn’t be afraid to say there’s at least 2,500-3,000 homeless people just in Charleston,” said Sneade, who has spoken with many of those people.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  Seven housing programs in West Virginia have been awarded federal grants totaling more than $842,000.

The grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to assist homeless individuals and families, along with communities experiencing homelessness.

Programs receiving grants include the Clarksburg Housing Authority, Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless, Huntington West Virginia Housing Authority, Kanawha Valley Collective/KVC Planning Project, Raleigh County Community Action Association, Stop Abusive Family Environments and Westbrook Health Services.