Homelessness in West Virginia

The issue of homelessness is one that has haunted the state of West Virginia as it has other states across the country. The profile of an individual facing homelessness in this state might be typically seen as an adult, but is becoming alarmingly more diverse, touching all races, ages, and genders. In 2020, it was noted that on a single point in time, there were 1,547 people experiencing homelessness in this state. While this number has seen some fluctuations, the overall trend over the last decade has been towards an increase.

What Causes Homelessness in West Virginia?

The causes of homelessness in West Virginia are similar to the rest of the nation, with the economic downturn, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and the ongoing opioid crisis being major contributors. However, there are state-specific issues that exacerbate them. West Virginia is a largely rural state, which presents certain unique challenges. The loss of coal jobs has led to increasing poverty rates and unemployment, while the opioid crisis has severely impacted the state, affecting many families and communities.

West Virginia's Government Programs for the Homeless

The state government, through agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), has several programs designed specifically to assist those facing homelessness, working in tandem with federal initiatives. The Bureau for Behavioral Health within DHHR manages the Pathways to Home Program, providing critical services for those who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

The Supportive Housing Program, also supervised by the Bureau for Behavioral Health, assists people facing chronic homelessness who also have a diagnosed disability. The agency helps in finding suitable housing and offers rental assistance along with necessary support services.

Furthermore, the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, a body primarily funded through state and federal resources, collaborates with various state agencies to address the issue. They provide direct service, planning, and coordination of efforts across the state.

Assistance to Non-Profit Shelters

The state government supports non-profit shelters via budgeting alongside grant programs. These grants are often aimed at upgrading facilities, expanding space, and improving services offered to the homeless. The Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program is one such example, assisting shelters in improving the quality and quantity of emergency shelter and transitional housing spaces.

Homeless Shelters and Eligibility

There are approximately 88 homeless shelters across West Virginia, serving various populations - from women and children to veterans. Eligibility varies by shelter, but most will assist individuals who are actually homeless or at immediate risk of becoming so.

Many of these shelters offer more than just a bed, but also a range of assistance programs designed to help people get back on their feet. This can include vocational training, job placement, substance abuse assistance, mental health treatment, as well as assistance with finding and maintaining permanent housing.

Unique Aspects of West Virginia’s Approach to Homelessness

Third party groups have noted that West Virginia also employs a 'Housing First' philosophy - the belief that people are better able to move towards self-sufficiency and improved health once they are first housed. This approach may be beneficial to those who have faced difficulties in traditional shelter systems and can be explored through contacting a local DHHR office.

In conclusion, West Virginia's struggle with homelessness is an ongoing issue, but there are resources and assistance programs available for those in need. From government initiatives to non-profit organizations and shelters, help is available to individuals faced with this challenging situation. The first step often starts with seeking out these resources, and understanding that assistance is available and accessible.

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