MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mayor of Morgantown, Ron Dulaney, has created a special committee to combat homelessness in the city.
The committee has a few things to figure out before it’s fully operational, Councilwoman Rachel Fetty said, but it is important work because homelessness is a growing issue in Morgantown. Fetty said the problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19 because people have lost their businesses, jobs and something ought to be done.
The destabilization of the economy has a tremendous impact on families and on the support system and they function well in good times but become destabilized during an economic crisis. We can only expect that our challenges will increase and that’s why Councilor Dulaney, Councilor Cruze and I — and Councilor Kawecki — when they were in their mayoral positions they have always worked on homelessness and housing issues.Rachel Fetty – Morgantown City Council
Fetty addressed the issue of the homeless encampment saying that the city had a responsibility to address it since it is within Morgantown city limits. She said the city council has considered maintaining an encampment but that solution is next to impossible when you consider that there is a pandemic going on and stopping the spread of it in an encampment would be very difficult. Plus, she added, there are a number of other sanitation issues other than COVID-19 to worry about in an encampment.
There are many solutions other than the camp that have been offered and the new committee will listen to them, Fetty said.
“We are trying very hard to listen to residents who have come to city meetings to talk about these issues and we’re trying to listen hard to the advocacy community,” Fetty said. “And we’re trying hard to listen to our neighborhoods about how they want to see the city respond.”
Another group the city council looks forward to working closely with is the Monongalia Co. Commission because homelessness is not an issue they can tackle on their own, Fetty said. Additionally, she said, homelessness is a countywide issue, so solutions in Morgantown could be applied to the wider area and vice versa.
There will not be an easy solution, but one must be found to address the current homelessness issues before things somehow get worse, Fetty said.
“We have to rise to the occasion and there are no fingers to be pointed, there is no one to be blamed,” Fetty said. “It’s just how do we make the most of the resources that we have, how do we create some kind of community wide solution? And then for the city specifically, how do we deal with our city’s specific challenges?”
Fetty said the committee will start meeting in earnest next week and will have a better sense of what its strategy will be at that time.