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Wheeling Officials To Look At Homeless Issue in City

WHEELING — Incoming Wheeling City Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum works with the homeless, and says she and her family were homeless for a short time when she was a teenager.

She will be among city officials looking to address the homeless situation in Wheeling in the coming weeks after she and the new term of council officially take office Wednesday.

Ketchum is the associate director of the NAMI Drop-In Center at 1035 Chapline St. in Wheeling. She has been involved in a recent program that helps the homeless to get identification, and has assisted Project HOPE in efforts to bring health care to the homeless population.

She said she once experienced homelessness following a fire in her family’s home, but this was temporary and lasted only a few months. That’s not the case for most homeless people, according to Ketchum. She is aware of cases where a person has been homeless for up to 15 years.

“If we could solve the homeless problem by just providing them homes, we could solve homelessness,” she said. “But it has so much to do with mental illness. … “It is too big of an issue to not address it, from the city perspective.”

Ketchum expects to be the chair of council’s health and recreation committee, and she said that should put her in a position to be among those formulating a policy to address homelessness and mental illness in Wheeling.

She said the city should involve those working with other entities helping the homeless in Wheeling. Among these would be the Greater Coalition for the Homeless, Catholic Charities, The House of the Carpenter and The House of Hagar.

“We need a holistic approach that pulls in all governmental agencies,” Ketchum said.

“We have the ability to do good work. I would like like to see the city build a commission to tackle the homeless issue head on.

“We can do a lot to build platforms, and also provide resources we didn’t before. It would help city can provide some service in bridging gaps, and build some strategies.”

In April during the coronavirus pandemic, Wheeling officials ordered the razing of three homeless camps in the city following reports of vandalism and breaking and enterings of vehicles by those living in the camps.

Most recently, there have been reports of fires coming from homeless camps that remain.

City Manager Robert Herron said the city has taken no further action to raze homeless camps since the initial action, and is presently awaiting recommendations from fire and police officials on how next to proceed.

“We are reaching out to various groups that provide services to homeless,” he said. “We know the mayor has had discussions with them. The COVID 19 outbreak has put additional strain and pressure on the situation. There are groups out there working on assisting the homeless folks.”

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