Getting Homeless off the Streets of Charleston
December 22, 2016
The city of Charleston is helping hundreds of homeless finally get off the streets. There is an estimated 320 people living in shelters or on the streets of Charleston on any given night.
Almost a year ago, city leaders made a big push to move the homeless off of private property. Now, city council is partnering with Prestera to design an innovative plan to get people the help and services they need.
Every time police raid tent city, Davis Park or an abandoned building, they end up shuffling homeless people to a new location, not actually getting anyone off the streets.
"The homeless population is one of those things that it's hard for us to police in general because technically what we deal with is the laws and the right and the wrong. So we can't just arrest everybody when it comes down to it," Sgt. Paul Perdue told 13 News.
Prestera has started a homeless initiative where caseworkers pay visits to soup kitchens, shelters and homeless camps to make contact and help get those in need of housing food and services.
"A lot of times we're the short term in solving problems for folks. I think Prestera is going to be able to step in and give that long term solution that we really need," Sgt. Perdue added.
The problem, right now there is only enough funding for one person to service all of Kanawha, Putnam, Boone and Clay counties.
So, last night Charleston City Council voted to fund two caseworkers who will focus only on Charleston.
"If we only help the individuals who can come and knock on our door and ask for help- there's a lot of people still on the streets. So really going out and engaging with people," Traci Strickland said. Strickland is Prestera's Director of Homeless Programs.
Over the past year, the one Prestera outreach coordinator has connected 79 people with services. So with two coordinators focused on Charleston, that number could easily double.
"Until you've helped somebody whose on the streets get into housing and get to close the door behind you and leave their house and they're inside- you really just do not know what it's like," Strickland added.
The other good news, this program could potentially save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prestera did a study with one particular homeless man who was frequently arrested for public intoxication. Prestera got him treatment for his addiction and then into an apartment. The service estimates this one man is now saving the city $60,000 a year in police, court, hospital and jail costs.