A bill continues to advance that mandates a statewide homeless survey, intended to see if West Virginia’s health and human services facilities are being overtapped.
Senate Bill 239 would have behavioral health providers, treatment specialists, statewide government leaders and community stakeholders assess a breakdown of homeless demographics.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse passed the bill and sent it on to the House Health Committee.
The study would determine where homelessness is most concentrated around the state, if policies cause homeless relocation to certain areas and who is coming in from other states using West Virginia services.
Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, believes the survey will assess public health root causes.
“A lot of it has to do with mental illness and substance use disorder, and I would be willing to bet that it’s not the services that are provided,” Puskin said.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, has said that better understanding the state’s unhoused population is important to ensure the best use of the state’s resources.
“The study is basically just to know where the homeless folks are in West Virginia, why they are migrating from one part of the state to the other and how many of these homeless people are from out of state,” Azinger said. “We’re getting tons of out-of-state people that come to West Virginia, to the drug rehab places, because we have a lot of beds in one county: Cabell, but also, because we have benefits. We give away all kinds of freebies, and the word gets out on the street, cross-country, ‘Hey go to West Virginia.’ And that’s what’s happening. We want to truncate that, staunch the bleeding, put a stop to it, and make it reasonable. We’re not kicking anybody out of beds, we don’t want to do that, we want people that want help to get help.”
The homeless survey is due to be completed by July 1, 2024.