It was 15 degrees that night

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Dear Editor:

No place to go, no one to call. No car, no money, no friends, no coat. Not even a pair of warm boots. It was a blustery day in Greenbrier County. It is 15 degrees outside and starting to snow. Not a good day to be suddenly and completely homeless.

Taking refuge in a backyard unheated camper for a time, it took days to find a person even willing to talk. Getting turned down and turned away, told not to “come here” or refusing to help because “it is not their job?” Getting told to make some calls or get on the internet and find a place to go. Generally the homeless do not have access to a phone or computer.

Another week goes by,made more calls to more agencies. No help, after all it was Christmas week and people were busy. Someone did pay for a night at a hotel, which was great as it was very cold and rainy. Even did a week long stint in a psychiatric facility, but still homeless after being dropped off in town. Nearly a month and many phone calls later someone found an open bed in a homeless shelter in Beckley which is an entire county away. It was going to be difficult to get to the shelter with no car and no phone. No dignity left now.

Greenbrier County officials will not admit there is a homeless situation in their county. There are no shelters of any kind, no emergency shelter for a night or two, not even a place to get a meal. If there are places to go none are advertised at all. There are no phone numbers, no flyers, no billboards, not even a tattered advertisement on the outside billboards at the local grocery stores. There is nothing to point a homeless person where to go, what to do, whom to call. No beckoning from a church, civic league or community center. No help for the homeless!

There are agencies (first and foremost the Department of Health and Human Services) that are mandated to help people in crisis, but choose not to. According to the West Virginia Interagency Council on Homelessness, the county and the entities in charge of taking care of the people should be doing much more.

Homelessness is unacceptable, and those affected by it should be treated with respect and dignity.

In Greenbrier County there is a systematic denial of the problem of homelessness.

No shelters, no help, no hearts. Is this truly the home of the “Coolest small town in America”?

Irene Shinault
Renick