Counting Wheeling’s Homeless
Coalition Says About 105 People Are on the Street
WHEELING — A combination of escalating housing and utility costs, low-wage jobs, drug addiction and other problems left about 105 people in Ohio County without roofs over their heads last year, according to the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless.
Now, Executive Director Lisa Badia and her team have to do their best to create a new Point In Time Count to determine how many homeless there are in the five counties they serve: Ohio, Brooke, Marshall, Wetzel and Hancock. Last year, the total number for all five counties was 168, though the solid majority of those counted were in the Wheeling area.
Badia said it is difficult to count the homeless because they are, by nature, transient. For example, they may have a tent under the bridge that carries Chapline Street across Wheeling Creek one week.
By the next week, they may have found shelter somewhere, or may be at another encampment under another bridge.
“There is a constant cycle of homelessness. Oftentimes, as soon as we get one family in a home, we see more come in,” Badia said. “Sometimes, they get evicted if they miss a rent payment, or they might lose a job and no longer be able to afford the rent.”
The time count is required each year, Badia said, so the agency can continue to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding.
This year, the coalition is getting a total of about $423,000 from the this arm of the federal government.
“Our overall funding has gone down a little bit over the last five years,” Badia said. “For example, all federal funding has been cut from our transitional housing program. It is now running on donations.”
The 2017 survey found that 85 percent of those recorded were single adults, with 51 percent of them being men.
“It’s never good, but it’s especially bad with families because it can be difficult to keep the kids in school,” Badia said.
This year, 45-year-old Jay Smith will be one of those counted as homeless in Wheeling. To compound his predicament, Smith is confined to a wheelchair because an illness left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Smith appreciates the help of Badia, along with those at Youth Services System, the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center and the House of Hagar.
“We just keep plugging along. We do the best we can to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society,” Badia added.
Assisting Badia with the county are coalition employees Jordan Harris, Aaron Badia, Kayla Spry, Christy Whitman, Roberta Badillo and Kyle Hall.
For more information about the coalition, go to www.wheelinghomeless.org, or call 304-232-6105.