The Parthenon

Editorial: Housing Huntington’s homeless first step towards a forgotten issue

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Being approached by someone who is homeless here on campus is no phenomenon. Often times, it’s someone asking for change or help getting something. Because of the reputation that Huntington’s homeless have, it often generalizes all people who are struggling, without any empathy from students or bystanders passing them on the street.

Thursday, several local agencies launched a coordinated effort to ensure people who are struggling and without homes have shelter as winter approaches. This project will focus on also cleaning up the area stretching from Riverfront Park to 23rd Street in West Huntington.

With the rise of Huntington’s opiate crisis, it’s easy to forget about those without homes. In the past few years, there has been this generalizing of the homeless and addicts. Often addicts in Huntington are left homeless, but Huntington still has an underlying problem of families without places to stay.

The Huntington City Mission does a survey every year to track how many homeless persons there are in Huntington. In 2017, 205 people were recorded without homes. This is actually an improvement from 2016, which was up to 228 people.

With winter approaching, people could risk their lives staying outside and freezing. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is helping this effort by telling citizens that Huntington needs to show compassion.

“Our city has a tradition within its core values to show compassion to those who are having difficulty in life,” Williams said in a press release. “Our city does not turn its back on those less fortunate. Compassion is always the right course when helping those who are struggling.”

Williams is exactly right. People in Huntington, and more so West Virginia, know that there is a large group in this state who struggle, whether it be they lost their jobs, struggle with addiction or are barely making ends meet. However, it is no secret to anyone who has lived in West Virginia, and because of that, there is this mentality of, “no one else is going to help us but ourselves.”

That is what Huntington is doing now. There’s use in waiting anymore for federal funding or help from outside agencies. Huntington needs to attack this problem head on, especially if they wish to continue this effort of revitalizing Huntington. Instead of gentrification though, Huntington is trying rehabilitation.

Some of the agencies helping to fund and achieve this goal are the Cabell-Huntington-Wayne Continuum of Care and namely the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless. Agencies like these have already begun to help people move out of Riverfront Park into assisted housing.

This should not be a political issue in anyway if you care about the betterment of Huntington. Tough love or saying “get a job,” has never worked and never will. When a group makes an effort of compassion, then that is when change is made.

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