BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says as of January 2020, more than thirteen hundred people experienced homelessness on any given day here in the mountain state. West Virginia has the eighth-lowest homeless population in the country. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, about .23% of people in West Virginia are homeless. Here in our local counties according to the West Virginia Coalition to end homelessness 2021 data, a little over 100 people are without a home
In Raleigh County, the Community Action Association and Emergency Housing Center gave 106 people a bed to sleep in from January 1 through April 20, 2022. Marketing and Development Specialist Leah Deitz Jackson says there are two primary causes.
“One, and maybe the easier one to deal with is that people who live paycheck to paycheck are really just one financial windfall or hiccup away from a situation that they can’t maintain,” said Dietz Jackson. “If you spend your entire paycheck covering your bills or necessities and then something like a car bill or something breaks on your car and you have an unexpected $600 bill, that could be your rent.”
She said the second most common cause is untreated mental illness.
“They may find themselves in a position that day to day life and managing tasks becomes incredibly difficult,” Dietz Jackson added. “So, without any support and without any treatment they may find themselves in a situation they can’t get out of.”
She said the biggest problem surrounding homelessness is stigma. She told 59News it prevents people from raising their hands and seeking help and resources, but that stigma is starting to change.
“The education about these issues is just now starting to blossom,” she told us. “We are learning how to talk to people, learn the language to use, learn how to be sensitive to everybody.”
As inflation hits the country hard, and the eviction moratorium due to the pandemic ended on August 6, 2021, Dietz Jackson says it’s too soon to tell if homeless numbers will spike in our area, but homeless shelters across the mountain state are preparing for whatever the summer may bring. She adds it’s up to everyone to help our neighbor in need because one act of kindness could be the key to keeping someone in their home.
“Find your closest blessing box and make sure it’s stocked with anything. Food, toiletries, socks, gloves, sunscreen, it’s about to be that season, anything like that.”Leah Dietz Jackson
The Emergency Housing Center can always use backpacks and duffel bags without wheels so that the people they serve have a sturdy, cleanable bag to store their belongings in.