WILLIAMSON – William C. Duty, local attorney for the Mingo County Public Defender’s Office, approached the Williamson City Council at a regular meeting Thursday, Jan. 14 to discuss coordinating local resources to assist the homeless population in Williamson.
Duty explained the action steps being used to address this issue. “I am trying to raise this as a legitimate issue in this city. The goal is to coordinate the resources already available. I am in the process of talking to local churches to see if any would permit the use of their building for a shelter.”
Duty continued stating, “The local police department is stepping up to the plate where they are going to do routine safety checks should a place become available. Because this is in such an infant stage, I am still talking to various organizations and people in my attempt to bring everyone together and make this happen. With all that being said, I implore this body (council) and any individual to please offer any suggestions and work with us to solve this issue that affects this community.”
Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton responded stating, “It is a matter of very important concern. Hopefully, Adult Protective Services at the Welfare Office can help us some too.”
Carlton continued saying, “We are whole heartedly behind it if you can come up with some idea that you want us to endorse. We would be glad to consider it.”
Council woman Sherri Hairston-Brown offered a different perspective on Williamson’s homeless asking (Duty), “Have you ever had a conversation with any of them; the ones that live under the bridge? Have you ever went down there and talked to them?”
Duty stated that he had not. Hairston- Brown responded saying, “Sometimes when you have a conversation with them; it is by choice. They choose to live that way. They have homes but they choose to live that way because they don’t want to abide the rules of their home.”
Hairston-Brown continued, explaining that the issue is more prevalent during the summer than the winter because many go back to their households during the winter months. “If you notice, there are more homeless people under the bridge in the summer time than there is in the winter time because in the winter time; they go home. In the summer time, they stay under the bridge because they don’t want to abide by the rules of the home. Also, if you notice, there’s more at the first of the month than there is toward the end of the month. The reason why I know is because I have talked to them.”
Hairston-Brown concluded stating, “Some of them, it is by choice and I don’t know why they want to live that way. They can go home.”
In Mingo County, a Point in Time homeless count will be conducted throughout Jan. 26 and 27. More information on Point in Time can be found at the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (WVCEH) website at www.wvceh.org.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279.)