Homelessness in Morgantown: Everyone’s Problem

The issue of homelessness in Morgantown, W.Va. is not a secret. If you walk down High Street at anytime of the day or night, you’re likely to be asked if you could spare some change. This is a small piece of the issue that we see before our eyes, but there is much more to the story than this. You may be surprised to know how much the growing homeless population in Morgantown impacts your life.   homeless in morgantown

Photo courtesy of MountaineerNewsService.com

According to WDTV, the homeless population in Morgantown grew by 30 percent just last year. The cold weather and holidays may have some of us thinking of the less fortunate, but it’s not just the people you see on the streets that are in need of help.

Beyond the stereotype:

  • The primary cause of homelessness in Morgantown is lack of affordable housing.
  • The majority of people experiencing homelessness in the community are not visible like the people we see on the streets.
  • The majority of homeless people in the community are working at least part time.
  • Families with children are the fastest growing portion of the homeless population in Morgantown.

According to the Morgantown Homelessness Task Force, “The immediate impact of homelessness is, of course, on those who find themselves without a place to live. However, this problem also affects the quality of life for all in our community. The costs of homelessness are not just borne by those who directly experience homelessness. Everyone pays at least some of the personal, health, social, economic and governmental costs of homelessness because of the demand upon, and cost of, police, health and other public services.”

As the temperature drops each day, you may be asking now more than ever, what is being done to address this growing issue?

  • In September, Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller announced more than $23 million in federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for community development, affordable housing, and homelessness prevention and relief in West Virginia.
  • The Homelessness Task Force is a creation of the Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission.  Its goal is to address homelessness and vagrancy in Morgantown and the surrounding metropolitan area.
  • The City of Morgantown Community Development Office administrates annual grant monies from the federal government with the goal of providing decent housing, a suitable living environment and expanded economic opportunities.
  • Multidisciplinary Unsheltered Homeless Relief Outreach: Morgantown (MUSHROOM) is a medical student outreach to homeless people in Morgantown. Every two weeks, medical students with faculty physicians make rounds on the streets to find the homeless to give medical care and food.
  • Homeless Shelters and clothing places such as Christian Help offer the less fortunate food, shelter and a temporary peace of mind.

The actions being taken and institutions being created are a start, but there is a large misconception among residents in town of what it truly means to be homeless in this area. The sooner we realize that the majority of homeless people are not the ones we see begging for money on High Street, the better. We need to realize that a majority of this population is made up of families and people who are working. If housing is so expensive that a working mother or father can’t afford to put a roof over their child’s head, that’s something that should concern us all.

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14 thoughts on “Homelessness in Morgantown: Everyone’s Problem

  1. This is a great post about a true Morgantown problem that all residents, students, and visitors come across at least once (or in my situation living downtown, multiple times a day). With a post like this you have to be honest and use good information, which you 100% did and it makes the post really strong. You brought up the issue of the homeless here in Morgantown and informed me of information I honestly did not know. Then you linked to other places and informed the readers about what is being done to help situations like this. This is a great post that I don’t see many people write, report, or blog about and I am glad I read it!

  2. Hi Maddi,

    I really enjoyed reading your post! I once volunteered with a homeless shelter downtown, and it really was a learning experience for me. I think everyone tends to have this sad misconception that homeless people are lazy and just don’t want to work. While that may be true, the odds are generally against it. i enjoyed reading about some of the organizations that are helping to combat homelessness in Morgantown, and the MUSHROOM organization really stood out to me. Unfortunately, health care could be one of the most overlooked things in terms of what resources homeless people need, when in reality I think it is one of the most important. I would love to learn more about this specific program. It’s a shame they can’t go out more than once every two weeks, especially with the cold setting in.

    Thanks for the great information! Nice work!

  3. Maddi, this is a great post! I’m really glad that you mention homelessness extends beyond the people we see in the streets. A lot of time I think community members, especially students wish to only see the problem right before them, but I know several people who sleep on people’s couches or wherever they can that are still technically homeless. I also like the way you laid out all of the ways Morgantown is trying to help. Good job!

  4. Maddi –

    When I was a sophomore in undergrad, I did a lot of volunteering with Christian Help. I was surprised to learn that despite the growing homeless population in Morgantown and the issue it presents to the city and its residents, Morgantown is actually considered one of the most “homeless friendly” cities in the United States. This is because Morgantown is home to over 400 non-profit organizations and gives this population a lot of options. We have several religious organizations and churches that offer free weekend meals, places where people can spend a relatively warm and comfortable night (The Bartlett House, The Living Room, etc.) and organizations willing to help clothe and care for people in need. Christian Help itself collects statistics on their clients, including how many utilize their food pantry, clothing pantry, Career Closet and new healthy food options. I know this is your last group blog post, but if you ever decided to do a follow-up, you might be interested in researching Christian Help’s new Jobs for Life initiative, which aims to help people develop skills to change their life situation. The ideology is that training people and helping them get and maintain a job is more worthwhile than simply giving them food and clothes, which creates a never ending cycle. Great read! I enjoyed it.

  5. Maddi–

    Great post. I always think about this issue while I’m walking just on High Street. I love the format of the post: You acknowledge really good questions people might be wondering. Something I thought was really interesting is how you acknowledged the people NOT on the streets that are homeless and how they actually have jobs. That’s something most people don’t think about at all. I think something that would also be interesting to include would be the drug problem in West Virginia. I think it definitely contributes to homelessness in this area, especially how Morgantown, a larger city in WV, is “home” to many.

  6. Unfortunately the photo used just helps the ignorance & stereotyping. Showing the other side of homelessness would have made more sense. A photo of dirty passed out lazy people on the street just makes it worse.

    • The photo was used to reinforce the fact that those people are what most citizens envision when they think “homeless.” Following the photo is the section of the article that extends beyond this stereotype.

  7. If there were more housing for people that are not students and if landlords wouold rent to them as a family unit then a lot of the homelessness would be over. A lot (but not all) landlords will only rent to students as if they have say a 3 bedroom house they can get like 300-400 dollars per student where most families cannot afford $1200 a month in rent and still survive on their paychecks…

  8. I thought this was great but sad and an enlightening article, nice to see something educational and regional pop up in my newsfeed today.

  9. I think this is the best group post I’ve seen this semester. Using two different bulleted lists really made a lost of sense and helped get me through the post. Linking to resources of places trying to stop the issue was a great addition. Great post!

  10. Maddi, I love this article, and I’m really glad you covered so much material. I’m also glad Karlea covered homelessness this week, specifically talking about college kids. This is a huge issue in Morgantown, and I definitely agree with what Nina said above: there isn’t really housing available for the working poor. This is a problem that needs to stop being ignored.

  11. I know this post created a lot of attention, and I honestly think you made an impact on some readers located here in Morgantown. My favorite part was at then end when you reiterated that the drunk beggars we get annoyed by every day walking to class aren’t actually the homeless people you are speaking of. Like I stated in my last post, homelessness can hide anywhere, and it’s so unfortunately true. I hope that these issues eventually decrease around here thanks to people like you addressing the incorrect stereotype. Awesome post, probably my favorite one of yours to be honest.

  12. Pingback: Morgantown Problems | New Beginnings for the Morgantown Problems Blog

  13. Well-reported post. You provide a variety of sources and dig into the city’s materials on the subject, yet don’t stop with any single source of authority. Good interaction with commenters as well.

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