The Times West Virginian

Local News

September 22, 2013

Group working to combat homelessness

Now evaluating available resources

FAIRMONT — The Marion County Coalition for the Homeless hopes to coordinate resources for the homeless at a county level.

The goal for the group, which held its first meeting Friday at  the J. Harper Meredith Building, is creating a map of resources, as well as a directory of services, for use by the homeless who need the services, and to aid those who want to help in seeing where assistance is most needed.

Wayne Worth, the meeting’s facilitator and a social worker at the We Care Home Care Agency, said that what is important in these first few meetings is to see what is out there and to “see what’s feasible.”

Future goals will include a directory of services available to the homeless in the area, and working to create a true partnership among groups offering those services, so that more coordinated care can be offered, Worth said.

The meeting came out of discussions at weekly 12:30 p.m. “Thursday gatherings” at the Gatherings Church at 216 Monroe St. in downtown Fairmont. These Thursday meetings are used to come up with ideas for ways for economic revitalization of downtown Fairmont, Worth said.

“Anyone who has an idea can share it,” he said, “and we organize to make it happen.”

A woman currently experiencing homelessness came to the Thursday meeting last week, and said she wanted to organize people to create more opportunities for the homeless to find permanent housing. And that was how the idea for this meeting came about, Worth said.

Worth talked about a program in Huntington which focused on getting the homeless into permanent housing as a first step.

“Huntington had a huge homelessness problem in the early 2000s,” Worth said.

“With nothing stable, with no house, it’s very hard for people to get jobs,” he said.

The Housing First program was also pursued in Cleveland, Ohio, “and the numbers show that it works,” Worth said.

Worth emphasized that at these early meetings, they just want to understand what resources are available, with the hope that eventually they can coordinate care and ensure a variety of options for people’s different needs.

Zach Brown, the executive director of the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, said that it’s important for people to put a face to homelessness.

“I think when you can attach a face and a relationship to someone who’s gone through this, it makes a difference,” Brown said.

“We don’t want to manage homelessness,” Brown said. “We want to stop it.”

“People are dying now, and a lot more frequently than you’d expect in West Virginia,” he said.

Worth cited figures from Cleveland, Ohio, that showed that, combining shelter costs and other costs such as health care, a homeless person in a shelter costs $27,775 a year in 2012, while one in housing only costs $19,274.

Bob Gribben, of Fairmont Community Development Partnership, emphasized “different strokes for different folks.”

“We need different types of housing for different needs,” Gribben said.

Brown argued for the usefulness of data in finding what works best.

“We have resources for communities to track their data, to do what works so that they can succeed,” Brown said.

Rachael Coen, the outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, said it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Representatives from the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, the Fairmont Community  Garden, Scott Place Shelter, Fairmont Community Development Partnership and concerned members of the community were present.

Wayne Worth encourages anyone interested in being involved to come to the next meeting, which will happen next month at a time to be announced later.

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

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