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Fed Homeless Law Could Have Big Impact in WV

October 15, 2007

Charleston, WV – Sometimes, a homeless person isn't considered "homeless" according to federal standards, and that can compound the problems for West Virginians who are seeking help as they try to rebuild their lives.

Amy Weintraub with Covenant House in Charleston recently testified before Congress. She says many homeless people, especially families and youth, are able to find temporary places to stay, often with friends or family, but that makes them ineligible for federal help that could lead to permanent housing.

"Services around addiction issues, mental health care, housing support, all of those could be denied to someone, because they aren't considered truly homeless."

The HEARTH Act, now being considered in Congress, could expand the definition of homelessness to provide services to people who are currently ineligible for them simply because they have temporary shelter. Weintraub says that would be a big help for rural West Virginia, where help can be hard to find.

"People staying with others, perhaps doubling up with other families, sleeping on the floor of a friend's apartment, or maybe staying in really cheap motels because they have nowhere else to go, are left out of a whole spectrum of services."

She adds even though many homeless people are able to find stop-gap types of shelter, they're still living in unstable situations and could use help getting back on their feet.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV