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Dear WV cities:  Just because the Supreme Court says you could doesn’t mean you should • West Virginia Watch

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Dear WV cities:  Just because the Supreme Court says you could doesn’t mean you should • West Virginia Watch


Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Grants Pass v. Johnson that cities can charge people with crimes for sleeping in public, even when they have nowhere else to go. 

The ruling partially reversed the 2018 case Martin v. City of Boise, which had held that cities had to offer sufficient housing alternatives before criminalizing homelessness. 

The new ruling will have ramifications across the country. 

On a single night in January 2022, there were at least 580,466 homeless people in the United States, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which is widely considered a conservative count.

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Housing prices continue to outpace incomes, particularly in urban areas, leaving housing out of reach for many. The average hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom rental in 2023 was $27.58, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25.

Failures in our mental health and addiction treatment systems allow many people to spiral rather than provide necessary support. More than 130 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to the National Rural Health Association. This drives more struggling people into population centers to seek support. 

West Virginia cities have responded to these pressures by attempting to criminalize poverty. For years cities like Martinsburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Parkersburg, Huntington, Charleston, and even Buckhannon have engaged in aggressive tactics against people who are indigent, experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. These include nuisance “drug house” ordinances, panhandling bans, and breaking up of encampments. For years the ACLU-WV has fought back against these cruel and misguided policies.

The ruling in Grants Pass may have given cities more power to enact such policies, but it doesn’t require them to do so.  

Criminalizing people for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go is inherently contrary to the notion of freedom. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her Grants Pass dissent, “sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime.” 

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In his majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with a lower court’s ruling that Martin had “shackled” local officials’ efforts to redress the serious issue of homelessness. Putting aside the unfortunate choice of words, it’s crucial to note that these laws do nothing to remedy homelessness. 

In fact, they only make the problem worse. 

We cannot arrest our way out of this mess. We cannot expect court fees, fines and the collateral consequences of legal-system involvement to lift anyone out of poverty. Last year, when the City of Charleston put 16 people in jail for five days for the crime of being homeless in a city park at night, how did that benefit anyone?

In trying to make homelessness less visible, cities like Charleston are throwing gasoline on the fire. We can’t hope that a cruel and hopeless enough situation will magically create the resiliency needed to overcome obstacles and barriers. And we certainly can’t believe that kicking people to the next town over is a viable policy solution.

There are many proven methods to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. They include low-barrier housing, rent controls, expanded mental and behavioral health services, and cutting the red tape to assistance. 

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Not only are these policies more humane and more effective, the data shows they are cheaper.  For example, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness found that providing permanent housing to chronically homeless individuals saved the region $31,065 per person per year in reduced spending on law enforcement and emergency services.

So, while the Supreme Court may have allowed more criminalization of poverty, it is still bad policy. 

And if West Virginia cities think they now have a blank check to criminalize poverty, they can think again. The ACLU isn’t going anywhere and we will fight these wrongheaded proposals every step of the way.

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West Virginia

Conserving W.Va. History, Joining A Silent Book Club And Celebrating Tourism, This West Virginia Week – West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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Conserving W.Va. History, Joining A Silent Book Club And Celebrating Tourism, This West Virginia Week – West Virginia Public Broadcasting


On this West Virginia Week, we spend some time in the Eastern Panhandle and learn about a new Battlefield Park, hear from a Harpers Ferry author and explore the unknown future of the John Brown Wax Museum.

We also travel to Morgantown to experience a Silent Book Club, and then south to Logan County to check out the hopes riding on the inaugural Governor’s School for Tourism. 

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In other news this week, we learn the latest on the health of the coal industry in West Virginia, check in on a campaign to improve foster care, hear from the state Board of Education meeting and visit an archeological dig in Malden.  

Liz McCormick is our host this week. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert.

West Virginia Week is a web-only podcast that explores the week’s biggest news in the Mountain State. It’s produced with help from Bill Lynch, Briana Heaney, Chris Schulz, Curtis Tate, Emily Rice, Eric Douglas, Jack Walker, Liz McCormick and Maria Young.

Learn more about West Virginia Week.

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West Virginia

Hometown Senior Center has a new owner

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Hometown Senior Center has a new owner


PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Putnam Aging, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens, is now the owner of Hometown West Virginia’s senior center.

The Putnam County Commission has allowed Putnam Aging to work in three of the county’s senior centers, but now that they own the center in Hometown, Director Jenni Sutherland said they can start improving the outdated facility.

“Some of our senior centers are just newer, more up to date, able to run computer labs and other types of activities and the hometown center is just an older building,” Sutherland said.

Melissa Villalobos, the head chef at Hometown Senior Center, said she’s excited for the possibilities after receiving a new oven for their meal program.

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“I was in a convention oven right there, and yeah it’s hard preparing 150 meals,” Villalobos said.

Sutherland said having ownership of the building will make it easier to improve the facility with non-removable upgrades.

“So we’re able to cook more meals at one time, but there’s other types of improvements that we’d like to make to the building itself that will now be possible due to this gracious donation by the county commission,” she said.

Sutherland also said potential improvements could include more level floors, a larger parking lot and repairs to the old electrical system.

Putnam Aging will also host a Christmas in July themed picnic on July 25 at Valley Park in Hurricane, West Virginia.

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Ironton hosts 7-on-7 for local Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia schools

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Ironton hosts 7-on-7 for local Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia schools


IRONTON, Ohio. (WSAZ) – On Thursday afternoon, 12 different teams descended upon Tanks Memorial Stadium for 7-on-7 football.

Here are the highlights that include Ironton, Fairland, Jackson, Eastern, Boyd County, Notre Dame, Valley and Chapmanville Regional.



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