Morgantown Business Owners Take To City Council To Address Homelessness Downtown.

7 Oct

Homelessness is a visible problem in the heart of downtown Morgantown that has largely been neglected by the city government. So, on Oct. 1 business owners and local residents took to the Morgantown City Council to voice their concerns and explain the negative impacts being placed on their businesses and homes.

A majority of business owners were from Walnut Street, the most frequented street for the city’s homeless population. The cause of this has been placed onto The Friendship House being relocated to Walnut Street from its prior residence on High Street in recent years.

The Friendship House is the only homeless shelter in Morgantown, allowing up to 28 people to sleep safely indoors from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night as well as offering programs and a community garden for the homeless to partake in.

The issue is that Morgantown’s homeless population far exceeds 28 people, causing the rest to sleep on the streets and stay close to The Friendship House during the day.

Downtown business owners have blamed the homeless population for the drying up of businesses and the emptying of storefronts.

Kim Noville, the owner of The Dirty Bird, a restaurant located on Walnut Street said in her address to the City Council that “The city has to do better…there are too many vacancies. We should not look like a tumbleweed town.”

Noville went on to mention how some business owners are “turning their cheek” to the homeless causing disruptions and asking customers for money as they leave in order to avoid having the police outside of their business.

She also mentioned how she no longer feels safe in her business and has begun to quickly locks her door when she opens her restaurant in the morning.

Other business owners in their address to the City Council claimed that many of their customers no longer feel safe or have told them that they do not want to bring their children to Walnut Street anymore.

This is troubling news for a city who is home to a major university having a downtown area where both college students work, live and eat and where families spend time together to not give residents a sense of security.

In spite of this, some business owners are not blaming The Friendship House but the Morgantown City Council for the arising problems with the homeless population.

“I don’t want [The Friendship House] to close, I just want a better control on the situation,” Blake Campbell, a worker from Retro-tique on Walnut Street said in an interview. “If we all are in agreement of their importance, why is it so hard for them to get resources?”

So far Morgantown City Council has not implemented anything meaningful to assist in the homelessness problem, however the city council has given their support to The Friendship House and made no suggestion to close or move the homeless shelter from Walnut Street.

Morgantown City Council is prepping for a special work session on Oct. 11 to develop and create ways to handle the city’s homelessness problem.

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