What WV Can’t Wait For
All West Virginians will have access to a secure, healthy home where they can have safety and privacy while still being a part of the community.
Whose Side We’re On
- Victims of domestic violence
- People who are homeless
- Kids who deserve safe, stable homes
- Workers who can’t make ends meet
- Helpers trying to make the world a better place
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
That’s the number of our fellow West Virginians who won’t have a home tonight. That’s the number of our fellow West Virginians who won’t have a place to go to safely maintain physical distance during the pandemic–and it’s a number that will grow as the economic impacts do.
Of those 1,243, nearly 200 are completely unsheltered or living in places not meant for human habitation. And more than 1000 are sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing. More than 100 are homeless veterans, more than 200 are homeless families, and there are more than 60 young people homeless on their own, without an adult caring for them.
But these tragic figures only scratch the surface of our housing crisis.
For instance, there are thousands more homeless students, taking into account shifting or substandard home environments, where a child may have temporary housing with a relative, live in a motel/hotel, or in other unstable environments.
What we’re facing is the incontrovertible truth that housing is also basic health care. It’s a necessity for physical distancing that protects not just essential workers and businesses, but all of us. Especially with nonessential businesses and public buildings like libraries closed, homeless people may have trouble even finding a place to wash their hands.
West Virginia has access to approximately $15 million in federal resources to combat homelessness, including sources from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), The Veterans Administration (VA), The US Department of Education (ED), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
From the standpoint of volume, homelessness is solvable in West Virginia.
The challenge in rural areas like West Virginia is the vast inequity that exists, county-by-county, as well as the difficulty in overcoming prejudice, fighting negative stereotypes of “hillbillies” and others, and other long-standing myths about homelessness and its root causes.
- Speed up the process of building efficient, affordable housing options for West Virginia residents, because homelessness is not just a personal struggle, but a public health risk during a pandemic. We support a state-level “right to shelter” and the federal homes guarantee. West Virginians need a variety of housing options in order to live with dignity. These could include the development and rehabilitation of abandoned buildings, the creation of tiny home villages, housing for displaced youth and young adults, senior villages, veterans homes, and more.
- Act with all possible speed to provide housing first. For example a Tiny Homes Village requires “four to six months’ lead time to be constructed” and “anywhere from 6,000 to 30,000 square feet of vacant land, depending on the number of tiny houses and common facilities to be placed there.”
- Acquire land for these projects through the Homestead Act, taking into consideration geographic need and future employment possibilities.
- Build/rehab the housing with a combination of Mountaineer Service Corps and other union labor, while seeking to cover material costs through federal grants, when possible. Partner with the WV Housing Development Fund to maximize federal grants and access to capital.
- Employ property managers and one or more navigators from the Mountaineer Service Corp to help residents obtain appropriate services, such as job search assistance, resume writing, SNAP, health care, counseling, veterans benefits.
- Pilot an effort modeled off of Project ID, which would assist homeless people in accessing the identification they need to become employed, access housing and services, and more.
- Create a cost exemption so that shelters, drug recovery programs and other service agencies are able to waive the cost of attaining identification for their clients.
- Advance a crisis response plan, updated annually, that includes statewide bed inventories and disaster plans so that the state is prepared for future pandemics and disasters.
- Invest in affordable housing options for people in recovery, veterans, traumatized children, people living with mental illness, victims of abuse, and seniors. (See also our Recovery Can’t Wait, Veterans Bill of Rights, Protect Our Children, and Seniors plans).
- Work to shift Medicaid dollars towards programs that prioritize housing as a means for helping people with underlying health conditions gain stability, which will save long-term health care and emergency care costs.
- Support homegrown collaborations, like the partnership between Covenant House and WV Health Right—through increased grants to free clinics as outlined in our plan to cut healthcare costs.
- Increase the numbers of case managers and outreach personnel for agencies utilizing rental subsidies in order to end homelessness before it begins. These positions through Mountaineer Service Corps will preference people who have experienced housing instability.
- Enable West Virginia Housing Development Fund to allow for HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance, which would provide an entirely new, potentially flexible, avenue of rental assistance for low-income people in the state.
- Direct and train state and local law enforcement to conduct outreach, provide aid, and put individuals in need in touch with service providers. A statewide initiative to educate, train, and introduce law enforcement officers (state, county, and local) to best practices in protecting and serving those experiencing homelessness will lead to lower costs and fewer unnecessary arrests that lead to criminal records–and thus more limited housing options. It will also increase safety for both law enforcement officers and those experiencing homelessness. (See also the full plan to prosecute corrupt politicians and corporate criminals with special divisions in the state police).
- Through our Office of Representation, ensure that state agencies that deal with homelessness include direct representation of people who are homeless or formerly homeless. This must include state and regional consumer advisory boards (for older adults) and youth action boards (for 13-24 year olds).
- Establish Political Corruption and Corporate Crime Divisions in the State Police, that among other things, will devote resources to enforce fair housing standards, stop price gouging, and advance tenants rights. (See plan to Prosecute Corporate Criminals and Corrupt Politicians.)
- Reactivate the WV Interagency Council on Homelessness to remove barriers to addressing homelessness across agencies, and share information and data across fields of mental health, healthcare, incarceration, education and substance use.This will improve our ability to make effective referrals, create plans of care, plan better for discharge, and produce better results.
- Explore ways to expand affordable housing options for college/vocational students, with the long-term goal of eventually providing a housing guarantee. Attending public college or vocational school in West Virginia must be affordable and accessible to all West Virginians.
- Encourage an increase in mixed use zoning to allow for more housing diversification and development.
- Stop the counterproductive Drug/Nuisance House ordinances across West Virginia. (See also our Recovery Can’t Wait plan.) Generally, these ordinances read that if any unit is subject to a call to the police twice in a 12-month period, police then have the authority to issue an order forcing the landlord to evict the tenant, with any subsequent tenant in that unit being subject to a criminal background check. The intent behind these ordinances is to curb the current addiction crisis in West Virginia, but it’s having the detrimental effect of making it very difficult for homeless and low-income people to access affordable housing. Worse, these ordinances are potentially unconstitutional, violate fair housing, do nothing to end the issues surrounding addiction, and create an environment where community members fear reaching out to police for help, thereby exacerbating safety issues.
How We Pay For It
Total: $8 million per year, paid for from the Prosecute Corporate Criminals and Corrupt Politicians plan.
- $2 million annually for the creation and rehabilitiation of affordable housing. (According to Shelterforce, tiny house villages of between 15 – 30 cost between $100,000 and $500,000, depending on the cost of hooking into utilities at the chosen sites. At four per year, it would be a cost of between $400,000 and $2 million annually.)
- $500,000 will go toward the “IDs for All” pilot program.
- $5.5 million in additional funds will be allocated for street outreach and a focus on youth homelessness, and will allow West Virginia to access additional federal grants and funds to address the student homelessness crisis (outlined in our Government of the People plan).
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.