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West Virginia Department of Human Services completes first in-depth homelessness study

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS), Bureau for Behavioral Health (BBH) has announced the completion of the first comprehensive study of homelessness in the state. The pivotal study sheds light on the complexities and diverse nature of the population experiencing homelessness in West Virginia.

Key findings from the study reveal the following:

  • Diverse Demographics: The study indicates that 58% of individuals experiencing homelessness self-identified as male. Additionally, 13% self-identified as Black or African American, a figure notably higher than the 3.7% of the total West Virginia population identifying as Black or African American, as reported by the 2020 U.S. Census.
  • Age Distribution: Nearly half (48%) of those experiencing homelessness were between the ages of 25 to 44. 
  • Complex Drivers: Substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illness were identified as significant drivers of homelessness. However, the experiences leading to homelessness were multifaceted, with individuals often facing a combination of challenges such as being released from correctional facilities, lack of affordable housing, and unemployment. 
  • Geographical Trends: The majority of individuals experiencing homelessness were found in population centers, which also host most of the services aimed at assisting this population.
  • Origins and Mobility: While the majority of individuals experiencing homelessness were long-term residents of West Virginia, many cited the availability of services, proximity to family, and personal relationships as reasons for relocating to or within West Virginia.

“This study provides valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of homelessness in our state,” said Christina Mullins, DoHS Deputy Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. “It underscores the significant role that mental health and substance use disorders play in this crisis. With this information, we are better equipped to develop comprehensive, compassionate, and effective strategies to support our most vulnerable residents.”

For more information on homeless services in West Virginia, visit dhhr.wv.gov/bfa/communityresources/Pages/Homeless-Services.aspx

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