MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A group of advocates once again showed up to Morgantown City Council’s meeting to push council to take action to address the city’s homeless problem.

It was the third straight meeting such a group has turned out. While the group tries to keep the issue at the forefront, two members of council expressed frustration that others have not taken a more active role in the problem-solving process.

“Brian and I can’t do it alone,” said Fifth Ward Councilor Danielle Trumble. “He and I don’t even work on it together that much; we kind of come at it from different angles.”

Trumble and Seventh Ward Councilman Brian Butcher emphasized the stress on the social service agencies brought on by Bartlett Housing Solution’s recent financial troubles.

Butcher is a board member with Morgantown Community Resources, the managing entity at Hazel’s House of Hope, and has worked with a variety of organizations to assist the homeless.

“I do feel other members of the council should be more intentional about the conservations they have with the people that are here and other service providers in the community, and I’ve appreciated when that has happened recently,” Butcher said.

Talks are ongoing to help Bartlett Housing Solutions meet a nearly $750,000 budget shortfall caused by a loss of grant funding and poor fiscal oversight, but there are no new developments.

Local pastor Shirley Robinson said she volunteers to feed the homeless every Saturday morning. Robinson told councilors there will always be some who choose not to work, but she encourages those who can work to find a job.

“Sometimes you do need a handout; you help,” Robinson said. “But if you don’t, then let’s educate the homeless on how to be productive citizens.”

Amid that discussion, council passed the first reading of an ordinance to repeal a 2005 ordinance that prohibits soliciting people in vehicles that are in the public rights of way. The specific code, Section 371.10, is the target of a federal lawsuit filed by Mountain State Justice.

City Attorney Ryan Simonton explained soliciting money or goods is protected speech and cannot be legislated against.

“The protection against vehicle and pedestrian conflicts and interference with traffic movement should not be legislated by laws addressing particular speech,” Simonton said. “For that reason, it’s recommended that the council adopt the ordinance.”

That particular section of city code is the focus of a federal lawsuit filed last month by Mountain State Justice.

Trumble and Butcher continue to call for action on a proposal to find an organization to run the warming shelter in the city next winter. The arrangement with the Mountainline Transit Authority (MTA) to offer free rides to Hazel’s House of Hope will expire soon if a deal isn’t reached to extend it. The ride that would normally cost 75 cents has been free since September 2021. In 2023, the MTA provided more than 87,000 trips.

“We’re still trying to work through the fact that at the end of June, the bus line to Hazel’s House of Hope, Scott Avenue, and Walmart may no longer be free,” Trumble said.