Dunlap Provides Update On Newly Formed Beckley Homeless Committee - The West Virginian
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Dunlap Provides Update On Newly Formed Beckley Homeless Committee

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Beckley Councilmember Robert Dunlap provided the common council with an update on the newly formed homelessness committee during the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

According to Dunlap, committee members, including Sherrie Hunter, Cody Reedy, Tom Sopher and Janine Bullock, have been discussing new approaches in addressing the questions of vagrancy, homelessness and lawlessness throughout Beckley. They have been brainstorming what approaches have worked in other cities that could be implemented in Beckley. They have also discussed what approaches will not work.

“We are kind of unique and we took a sort of interdisciplinary approach to finding out what questions were the important questions to ask,” said Dunlap.

During the committee’s first meeting, they discussed what their scope should be and how others in the city, like Beckley Police Chief Lonnie Christian, those with the United Way and the Raleigh County Community Action Association and others, could help them reach their goals of starting “to find helpful, humanitarian, but an enforcing kind of way to start to look at the problems,” Dunlap stated.

The first meeting was informal, Dunlap explained. During the second meeting, the committee evaluated what type of crisis is happening—whether the issue stems from vagrancy or true homelessness. He said that two women came and spoke before the committee on their experiences as being viewed as part of the Beckley homeless epidemic.

“What we were able to learn from these two ladies is their experiences are very different,” Dunlap said. “One wouldn’t be construed as homeless, one would be construed as homeless and we discussed with those ladies what the motivators are to be in Shoemaker, Word Park, just the areas around uptown in parks and what have you, through the better course of each and every day,” Dunlap said.

One of the women was able to provide committee members with insight into this topic and what the motivators for many people are, Dunlap noted. However, he did not go into detail about what motivators were discussed.

“Honestly, I think Ms. Hunter said it best, it’s through an open heart and compassion we are able to understand these people’s journeys, because, yes, it’s true in the uptown area we have more blessing boxes than we have mailboxes,” said Dunlap. “We have the biggest heart but we also have a lot of common sense. So, we have to make sure that our businesses know they are supported and people who need resources can find efficient ways to get to those places.”

Those with the United Way were scheduled to attend the third homelessness committee meeting to discuss coordinating all the agencies and people who need to sit at the table.

Dunlap said the committee needs to make sure they do not “duplicate services,” or “create an attractive nuisance to the uptown area that makes things worse.” He also said the committee respects the “fact that there are tremendous numbers of organizations and individuals already making a difference.”

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold told Dunlap that he thanks him “and [the] committee’s volunteer efforts on a pressing issue.”

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