by David Williams, HNN Freelance Correspondent
WSAZ did an investigative report on the increase of homeless called "Where Are They From?" They also attempted to answer the question "why are they here?" The bigger question may very well be "where are they going to go?" The fact that many homeless have been roaming the alleys and streets of Downtown Huntington has not been too big of an issue as they have stayed in abandoned houses or on the river banks. Many have been on ice or meth and do not sleep for days at a time so they just need a place to crash for a short time every few days.

With the calendar quickly counting down to Winter and the air at night is starting to turn cooler, someone is going to have to ask how we are going to shelter these people from the elements. Abandoned houses will not be warm enough as the temperature dives below freezing.
Harmony House played a major role in finding housing when the homeless tent city on the banks of The Ohio River was torn down last year. The demand may be too large for local agencies to satisfy this year.
WSAZ's segment WHERE DID THEY COME FROM AND WHY  determined that the homeless has come from all over. They mentioned that 120 different area codes were used at the needle exchange. WSAZ also asserts that the needle exchange is a main reason they are here.
The homeless have indeed drifted into Huntington from all over. A homeless guy who stayed at the abandoned house by me was from Boston. He has a thick Boston accent so he became known within the homeless community as Boston Mike. Boston Mike once explained to me that Huntington was much more homeless friendly than larger areas like Boston, New York or even Columbus. Huntington has many places that help feed the hungry. The streets are also safer to live on than bigger cities. Downtown Huntington and the area by Marshall has many apartment complexes. The dumpsters here provide a hunting ground for food, shoes, clothing, and items that can be traded for drugs or sold for drug money. There are also places to cash in aluminum found in the dumpsters such as empty pop and beer cans.
A local mother and daughter chose to become homeless this year. Although she receives a social security check, "Mama D choose to spend it on drugs. They stayed at the mission earlier in the spring but did not like the rules they had to follow. They have been staying at the abandoned houses downtown. Mama D and her daughter "Kat" hunt daily through the dumpsters and carry the best of their finds in old grocery carts. With Winter coming on, there will soon be a sense of urgency to find housing.
In the warm months, there really is not a sense of urgency to find shelter. When it is 80 degrees at night, an abandoned house works just fine for shelter. When it is 20 degrees out, t wil not. In the warm months, the main urgency is to find drugs. If something is not done to help these homeless addicts find suitable housing for the cold months, we may be seeing frozen bodies pulled out of abandoned houses in upcoming months. The problem of homeless in Huntington has been overlooked in the warm seasons...but cannot be overlooked as the cold months come in. We must find a way to accommodate the sudden explosion in homelessness in Huntington