Shocking Statistics: 28,581 West Virginians Seek Homelessness Assistance

West Virginia’s first detailed study on homelessness highlights the significant impact of mental health and substance abuse issues.

The data shows that 28,581 people are seeking help from shelters, outreach programs, or permanent housing. Over three-quarters of these people are already homeless.

The study found that 58% of the homeless were men, and 13% were Black, which is high compared to the state’s less than 4% Black population. Nearly half were between 25 and 44 years old.

Mental illness and substance abuse are common reasons for homelessness. Other factors include domestic violence, unemployment, getting out of prison, and lack of affordable housing.

Christina Mullins, deputy secretary of mental health and substance abuse disorders at the West Virginia Department of Human Services, discussed the findings.

“Most of the people we talked to were long-term residents of West Virginia,” Mullins said. “They tend to live in areas with more population because that’s where the services are.”

The report shows that homeless people are found in almost every community but are mostly concentrated around population centers with more services. If all the homeless people were in one place, they would form the state’s fifth-largest city.

Matt Wentz, who doesn’t consider himself homeless, told Eyewitness News he stays with friends or finds places around Charleston.

“It depends on how tough you are, how resourceful you are, and how many resources you know where to get,” Wentz said.

The study confirmed this.

“For the Department of Human Services, it’s about identifying gaps in our services,” Mullins added. “For example, some people didn’t know addiction services were available in their area. We need to ensure services are not only available but that people know how and where to access them.”

The agency says this important study sheds light on the diverse nature of homelessness in West Virginia.

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