Homeless problem on rise in area

BUCKHANNON – Homelessness is becoming an increasing problem in Upshur County, the executive director of the Upshur Parish House said this week.

The Rev. Alicia Rapking appeared before the Upshur County Commission at its Thursday meeting to deliver an annual report on the activity of Crosslines, an ecumenical help agency housed in the Upshur Parish House.

The amount of money spent helping transient or homeless people increased from $6,232.57 in 2012 to $9,089.06 in 2013, Rapking said.

“This is the statistic that concerns me most, because when someone comes to us and says, ‘I’m homeless,’ our policy is we can give them – at best – three nights in a hotel and some resources they can go to see. … After that we can’t help them anymore,” Rapking said.

“That’s becoming painful for me,” she added. “This past week we had a woman that came to us who had left her home because of a domestic violence situation, and we tried to work with all the available resources, but the only thing we could give her was three nights. At the end of three nights, she still hadn’t found anywhere else to live.”

Crosslines and the Parish House are dealing with homelessness much more frequently, Rapking said.

“This is becoming more and more something we deal with on a weekly basis,” she stressed. “I want to put this out there that we do have a problem with folks who find themselves in homeless situations. We don’t have the resources to take care of them.

“I would ask you to be open to thinking about that and thinking about what we can do to help these folks,” Rapking told commissioners.

She also highlighted several other troubling figures, including the number of new families added to Crosslines’ list of people it serves.

“In this past year, we added 272 new households, and if you look back at 2012, we added 323 new households in 2012 so over the past two years, we’ve added almost 600 new households to our database,” Rapking said, “and in a county our size that’s a significant amount of people that are in need of help.”

Crosslines spent about $10,000 more in 2013 than it did in 2012 on stocking its food pantry – $17,313 compared to $27,237.56.

In 2013, Crosslines also provided 11,207 assists ranging from furnishing food packages to supplying utility emergency assistance to families in Upshur County. Hours have been expanded from four days a week to five days a week to accommodate the need; the Parish House is now open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Rapking invited commissioners to attend Crosslines’ biweekly community lunches and meet some of the people the agency serves.

Others aren’t able to make ends meet because of debilitating disabilities, she added.

“I would encourage you to come one Monday or one Friday and just sit at a table with some of our neighbors and ask them what they do and how they’re doing and what’s happened to them in the last year,” Rapking said. “It’s always eye-opening to me when I do that.”

“The need is great obviously,” Commission President JC Raffety said. “The assistance that you provide is immeasurable to our community. It really is.”

Rapking emphasized that any money donated to Crosslines stays – and is used – solely in Upshur County.

In fiscal year 2013-2014, the county contributed $6,000 to Crosslines and the Parish House, County Administrator Megan Pomeroy said.

In other business, in response to a request from the Region VII Planning and Development Council, the commission updated the Upshur County project list, which is part of the Priority List section of Region VII’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Commissioner Donnie Tenney made a motion to prioritize the Elkins Road Public Service District Phase III Water Extension project, which passed unanimously.

The commission also was notified that the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department recently revised the Upshur County Clean Indoor Air Regulation. A public comment period is in effect through March 30. To obtain copies of the revised policy, write to: Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, 15 North Locust St., Buckhannon, WV 26201.