I am writing on behalf of Catholic Charities West Virginia in response to the recent story titled “Wheeling Facing a Dilemma in Handling Homeless Issues,” which was published on October 4, 2023, in The Intelligencer. Our organization is deeply concerned about the proposed ordinance that aims to address homelessness in Wheeling.
Catholic Charities West Virginia recognizes the importance of addressing the complex and pressing issue of homelessness within our communities. We have been serving West Virginians living in poverty for over 100 years, and we have been opening our doors on 18th Street to share meals with our neighbors – many of them homeless – for over 50 years. We understand the challenges that both homeless individuals and the community at large face. However, we firmly believe that the answer to these challenges does not lie in passing ordinances that could potentially criminalize homelessness. It is our hope that the City Council will take the time for discernment and carefully consider the implications of such an ordinance.
Collectively as a community, we need to slow down and have a thoughtful process on this issue. While we understand the frustration and concerns of residents and businesses in Wheeling, addressing homelessness solely through punitive measures can exacerbate the problem and lead to a cycle of despair for those who are already marginalized. It is crucial to remember that many individuals experiencing homelessness are struggling with complex issues such as mental illness, addiction, and trauma. These issues need to be addressed with empathy and a focus on providing supportive services.
We urge the City Council to pause and engage in thoughtful dialogue with stakeholders, including nonprofits, advocacy groups, police, and – especially — individuals experiencing homelessness. By working collaboratively, we can develop solutions that not only address the immediate challenges of homelessness but also promote long-term stability, dignity, and hope for those affected.
Catholic Charities West Virginia remains committed to its mission of serving the most vulnerable members of our communities. We are ready and willing to work alongside the city and its leaders to find effective and compassionate solutions to the homelessness crisis. Let us come together as a community to address this issue with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to the well-being of all of our residents.
Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Charities West Virginia