By JEFF MCCOY
MARTINS BURG, W.Va. — Andrew Garcia said he is a man committed to his community. He feels the town’s problems are his own, and the only way to solve a big problem, like homelessness, the heroin epidemic or any other is for the community to join together and fix it.
A police officer for the Martinsburg Police Department and a former Marine, Garcia said he is used to handling major problems and making hard decisions.
Last month, Martinsburg Renew, a nonprofit organization, was commissioned to deal with all of these problems. Garcia said he hopes to open the Kilbourn Mills buildings to facilitate the massive operation.
“Right now, we are in the midst of a $100 million grant that I put in with the MacArthur Foundation. I’ve talked to Larry Wright (the property owner), and he’s real supportive of it. He thinks it’s a great idea,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s plan would be similar to a complete wrap-around program.
“My idea has a plan for aftercare. A lot of these programs that people come up with only want to deal with them for 30 to 90 days,” Garcia said. “My program is we’re walking with you, we are actually integrating you into society.”
A wrap-around program is one that treats all symptoms and finds a long-term plan with treatment, housing and employment.
“There are no options. There’s no detox anymore, there’s nothing, there’s no where for them to be able to go. They’re sitting on somebody’s porch so it mars the image of downtown, but you can’t really fault them for being homeless because they have no place to go,” Garcia said. “Everyone focuses on heroin, but alcohol is a nuisance addiction. It’s not killing people, it’s not causing all the robberies, but it’s causing the nuisance. It’s causing the fights, causing the panhandling, so they need the help just as much. I think with the drug treatment center, the homeless will benefit tremendously just from that one aspect of it.”
The program could also provide long term treatment, which could place a recipient into the tax-paying category and out of the tax-costing one, Garcia said.
“It’s needed programs. It’s something that is needed in the community. I’m from Baltimore,” Garcia said. “I came here nine years ago. I saw how gangs, I saw how drugs, destroyed Baltimore. Everybody is affected in one way whether they understand it or not.”
Garcia’s faith shines throughout his plan.
“You can’t just leave out the whole spiritual, the soul, aspect of it. You have to know that there is someone that is going to accept you unconditionally,” Garcia said. “These guys have been kicked out, these girls thrown out in the streets.”
Garcia and his eight-member board said they are willing to make an investment into their community.
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