Homeless Camp Sites Are Removed Again in Wheeling

Several Orange Trash Bags Full of Belongings Set To Be Discarded

Bags filled with items which belonged to the homeless who live under Wheeling’s bridges are set to be discarded. Photo by Casey Junkins

WHEELING — Only yards from the City-County Building and Ohio Valley Medical Center, homeless encampments beneath the bridges crossing Wheeling Creek were removed in the interest of safety, according to a West Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman.

On Thursday, several orange trash bags filled with clothing, food and camping items were strewn beside a sidewalk on Chapline Street next to the Interstate 470 ramp at the south end of downtown Wheeling.

This is the second time in less than two weeks that items which appeared to be owned by the homeless were simply thrown away in the Friendly City.

“The police had nothing to do with it,” Wheeling Police spokesman Philip Stahl said.

Stahl said the orange garbage bags used for this were provided by West Virginia Division of Highways and no other entity.

WVDOT spokesman Brent Walker said, “Our bridge inspectors had gone under the (Market) Street Bridge and did notice there were tarps built up into the bridge. That bridge deck is a fiberglass bridge deck, so we had a concern that if there were fires being built up in there that it could, from a safety standpoint, affect our bridge deck,” Walker said.

“We had reached out to authorities that it looked like homeless encampments were being built into the bridge,” he added.

Walker said the division had employed some correctional institution laborers. He said plans called for the inmates to remove garbage and hazardous tarps from beneath the bridges — not throw away personal belongings.

“They were asked to pick up trash. They weren’t asked to dismantle anything. They were Division of Corrections folks who work with us,” Walker said.

“We are very sensitive to that kind of stuff. Our plans were not to dismantle or do any of that. It was simply to clean up,” he added.

However, Ohio County Correctional Center Manager Chris Tyler said he had “no idea” as to how this occurred or why.

Members of religious organizations and private citizens were going through the bags this week in an effort to retrieve personal belongings for the homeless, including family photos, children’s toys and personal care items.

City leaders have verbalized efforts to better handle situations such as this by working with local organizations including Project HOPE, the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless and Youth Services System.

This is yet another example of the problem of homelessness in Wheeling. Last year, 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 there heads last year, according to the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless.