The Times West Virginian

December 7, 2013

Housing First plan can help homeless

Presentation Monday at Fleming Memorial

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — This time of year, there’s a winter chill in the air.

People don’t spend as much time outside, hurrying between errands and work, looking forward to when they can finally go home, into the warmth.

But some people don’t have a warm place to go home to.

For the homeless of Marion County, the winter season can be hard.

The Marion County Coalition to End Homelessness (MCCEH) wants to help.

The group, founded earlier this year, will be giving out winter survival packs to those in need. The packs will include tents, tarps, outdoor cookware, boots, blankets and winter clothes.

Lisa Dubois, with the MCCEH, said that to the homeless, these packs are vitally important.

“In the woods, there’s no heat and no way to cook,” Dubois said.

Dubois said that the group also wants to work toward a more permanent solution for homelessness in the area, through the Housing First Initiative.

With the Housing First Initiative, homeless people are given a stable place to live as a first step and are then given access to other resources, such as job placement assistance or drug addiction treatment.

“With most housing initiatives, you have to be clean first, or have treatment first. The point of housing first is different. You don’t have to be anything but in need,” Dubois said. “Once you’re provided with a stable place to live, you’ll be able to get your life straight.”

Dubois said that having a permanent address goes a long way.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to get hired when you’re homeless,” Dubois said. “If you don’t have a phone number or an address, people don’t want to hire you.”

Having a consistant place to sleep helps provide the stability people need, Dubois said.

“They know they’ll have a warm bed and a sense of belonging,” Dubois said.

Members of MCCEH attended a Housing First Boot Camp and will make a presentation on the initiative to interested community members at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Fleming Memorial Presbyterian Church on Locust Avenue.

“Everyone deserves to be respected. Everyone deserves a place to live,” Dubois said.

Dubois said that a sense of respect is something many homeless people need.

“People don’t realize everyone is a paycheck away from being homeless,” Dubois said. “That’s why we feel it’s so important that you don’t judge people. People are in these situations for different reasons.”

At the meeting Monday, MCCEH will also make a presentation on Registry Week, which will take place Jan. 28, 29 and 30 next year.

“We’ll need some volunteers to go out those days and talk to people who are homeless,” Dubois said. “We’ll ask them where they slept and some basic health questions to see who has the most critical need.”

The project is a nationwide initiative that aims to get a more accurate count of the homeless population in the United States.

MCCEH is also helping collect for the Toys for Teens program. Items should be aimed toward kids ages 13 to 18. Donations can be dropped off at drop boxes in the United Mine Workers or the Firehouse Cafe.

“Or you can give me a call, and we can make an arrangement to meet,” Dubois said.

Donations are being accepted until Dec. 18, and the presents will be distributed to area schools Dec. 19.

To reach Lisa Dubois to donate for the winter survival kits or Toys for Teens program, call 304-365-7864.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.