Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Huntington officials, agencies clearing homeless from Ohio River banks



The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.  — Huntington city officials started the process Thursday of clearing homeless encampments near Harris Riverfront Park along the Ohio River, according to City Communications Director Bryan Chambers.

Several agencies arrived at the area known as “Tent City” between the floodwall and Ohio River, near the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, early Thursday morning to disassemble the living space and evict its residents.

Chambers said those along the riverbank were informed that this sweep would occur nearly three weeks ago by outreach workers that frequent the area.

The sweep encompasses a roughly 20-block area beginning at Harris Riverfront Park and stretching to 23rd Street West.

Chambers added that the sweep has been planned for several weeks as a result of both an increase in physical altercations occurring in that area among the homeless population as well as the growing health hazard the riverbank encampments pose.

In anticipation of this sweep, Chambers said agencies who regularly assist the homeless have stepped up their resources in order to ensure those leaving the riverbank are moved into permanent housing.

Chambers said members from the Cabell-Huntington-Wayne Continuum of Care, which includes 45 to 50 agencies that provide services to homeless people, prompted this sweep after approaching the police department nearly two months ago citing safety and health concerns.

He said the sweep was a coordinated effort by the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, the Public Works Department, the police department, the city’s planning and development department, the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Shelter and the members of the Cabell-Huntington-Wayne Continuum of Care.

“This has been approached with a very holistic, comprehensive viewpoint,” Chambers said.

Once the encampments are cleared, Chambers said agencies will begin removing debris from the riverbank, a process which could take several days.

The city has conducted such clearings twice in the last decade.

In 2007, it happened as city leaders worked on a strategy to better maintain the park and riverfront. About 20 to 30 residents were given two days notice then.

As reasoning for a 2013 clearing of the camp, then-police chief Skip Holbrook pointed at an uptick in aggressive panhandling, public intoxication and other issues. The 2013 sweep was planned weeks in advance, and advocates worked with about a dozen residents to find homing.

Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said in August he believed crime among those experiencing homelessness had been steady recently, after media reports indicating crime among the homeless in Charleston was increasing.

Bill Rosenberger, director of development for the Harmony House, previously said the organization surveys the number of homeless persons in Huntington at the start of every year.

He said the number actually appears to be decreasing. In January the number of homeless people in Huntington was 205. In 2016 it was 228, and in 2015 it was 227.

The City of Charleston’s clearing of an encampment last year with no notice led to a lawsuit filing which was recently settled.

In January, and in below-freezing temperatures, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones ordered the eviction of Charleston’s own Tent City along the bank of the Elk River near the Spring Street Bridge.

Jones announced last month the city had settled with the camp’s residents.

As a result, a fund was set up amounting to $20,000 for people who claimed to have lost property. Each claimant will receive a $1,200 voucher from local businesses.

Huntington city officials are expected to remain on scene for much of Thursday cleaning the Tent City area.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at and via Twitter @HesslerHD. Follow reporter Josephine Mendez on Twitter @JozyMendezHD.

See more from The Herald-Dispatch

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address