MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Several speakers at the regular meeting of Morgantown City Council on Tuesday called for new and improved partnerships within the community to help people struggling with homelessness.

Resident and non-profit worker Dani Ludwig told council members the policy of removing camps has forced homeless people into abandoned homes, where she said four have died in fires during 2024. A return to a managed camp, she said, would be an option if the city will not allow camps, and she knows several people who work with the homeless in the area who would be willing to help manage the camp.

“A managed camp where all the hubs of services can come and connect people to housing, treatment, or anything they need,” Ludwig said. “There are a bunch of us that work at non-profit organizations that can come there and be there 24/7 around the clock; we’ve done this before.”

Diamond Village operated in Morgantown for several months in 2020 between Pennsylvania Avenue and Deckers Creek. The camp operated on private property with permission from the land owner until he ordered the camp to leave the area. The camp of about 20 people moved onto city property several feet away and remained until city council ordered the camp to be disbanded permanently in November of 2020.

During the life of the camp, Greenmont residents reported a spike in property crime and open drug use. At the time, people in the camp acknowledged using Narcan on several occasions.

Erin Shelton also works with the homeless and supports the managed camp idea. Many of the people living in the street have suffered trauma due to life experiences and have been abused or not properly treated when they have sought care.

“They are on the street because we have failed them,” Shelton said. “We have failed them during so many vulnerable moments in their lives—when they had to interact with the child welfare system, the public school system, and the criminal justice system.”

Jennifer Powell also works with the area’s homeless population and wants to see the city come together to find a solution. She asked council members to work to find a solution that would help them live long enough to realize their potential.

“We need the help of the people that hate them; we need everyone to come together,” Powell said. “I’ll tell you, working with them—even with addiction issues, even with mental health issues—I love them.”

Seventh Ward representative Brian Butcher told the group they have no idea how many people in the community care and are looking for solutions. Butcher asked the group to continue engaging with the with the council and work with them to identify solutions.

“Anytime you guys come speak to council, we do listen, and it does make us think, and it impacts the way things happen, and it’s important, so thanks for coming out to speak,” Butcher said.

Second Ward representative Bill Kawecki said the city has been a strong partner in issues to help the homeless population. He noted the complexity of the problem and the time city officials have worked to find a solution, and he expressed frustration that the problem continues.

“We were instrumental in causing Hazel’s House of Hope to exist; we’ve been constantly supporting the various organizations, and we’ve tried to pull other churches and interested people together to cooperate,” Kawecki said.

Danielle Trumble, who represents the Fifth Ward, said the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties is accepting grant applications through their Emergency Food and Shelter Funding program. Trumble encouraged groups or individuals who would like to help submit an application.