“Community Means Unity”

2 Oct

Inclusion. It’s something everybody wants to feel whether it be in school, at work, or in their community. That was the hot topic of the Morgantown City Council meeting held on October 1, 2019. Many citizens of Morgantown came forward that evening to discuss that simply putting up a sign saying that Morgantown is inclusive simply isn’t enough.

During the public portion of the meeting there seemed to be a divide between the business owners of downtown Morgantown and members of the organization Friendship House under the topic of the homeless people that inhabit the streets of downtown. It’s no secret that Morgantown has a homeless problem, but Friendship House is trying to combat it by providing housing, addiction counseling, and mental health counseling for these individuals. Unfortunately, with the opening of Friendship House in 2016 business owners saw a rise of homeless people living on Walnut Street. These business owners came forward to express their opposition of the crowd this organization has brought. The owner of the restaurant, Dirty Bird, Kim Mobile stated that she feels unsafe walking past the building from her car to her business and has also been harassed by some of the people waiting outside. She also talked about how it has negatively affected her business as these people have come in shouting at customers and pressing against her windows, making her customers feel uncomfortable. “The city has got to do better,” Kim Mobile stated.

While there was several people opposing the number of homeless people on Walnut Street, there were a few there who represented the Friendship House who stood up for it and the greater impact it had. One volunteer, Kaitlyn Sussmen, pointed out how she has been seeing an increase in homelessness and a decrease in services to accommodate and that by removing the Friendship House would show that. One man named Ryan Feldman, also came to the Friendship House’s side stating that they were “being attacked for trying to help people combat addictions” and believed that signaling out one organization trying to help the problem was going to fix it.

Personally, I agree with the members of the Friendship House and Ryan Feldman. Morgantown has a homeless problem, but just by turning our heads is not going to make it go away. Morgantown needs to be supporting these types of organizations that are trying to help imbed these people back into society and provide more services like it. One person there that struck a cord with me was Daniella Ludwig. She herself had been in the same position many of the people that come to the Friendship House is in: battling addiction, homelessness, and a mental illness.

“You may call them street people and a nuisance to society, I call them my friends.” Ludwig stated.

She has been sober for over a year thanks to the Friendship House and has been spending her time giving back to it by volunteering helping others find their worth.

I think what the Friendship House is doing for the community is great and I wish the city would appreciate their services more. While I do agree with Kim Mobile about feeling unsafe walking through town, especially at night, ignoring them and pretending they’re not there is only going to make the issue work. We are all citizens of Morgantown and should be working together to help our neighbors. As Danielle Walker, another attendee at the meeting stated, “Community means unity” and I couldn’t agree more.

https://mphealthright.org/friendship-house/

http://www.morgantownwv.gov/

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