Homeless population explains reasons for choosing Charleston

Published: Aug. 17, 2017 at 12:22 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Police in West Virginia's Capital City say the number of homeless people and number of homeless arrests are significantly up, saying members of this population -- particularly from out-of-state -- have tripled this year alone.

To figure out why certain homeless people are choosing Charleston over other locations, WSAZ went to the source; stopping by several homeless hot spots in town for answers.

We caught up with one homeless man, Ronald Chandler, at the Transit Mall. He is from Knoxville, Tennessee, made his way to Charleston in February, and says he has been arrested twice in the six months since. He told our cameras he was high on meth during our interview. And, he says, homeless people are flocking to the area because other places have already cracked down.

"Virginia...Florida, wherever, have already cracked down so much," Chandler said. "Here, I can be a drug addict, an alcoholic and they dont really mess with me that much."

Despite his original reasoning for coming to the region, Chandler admits he's noticing a change in recent weeks. Police patrols are up. At one point, CPD arrested 20 traveling homeless people in just 48 hours.

Officers are also closing several camp sites for members of the homeless community.

Other homeless folks I spoke with said easy access to food and drugs were other incentives to come to Charleston.

Despite all the recent problems, Chandler and others like him say running homeless folks out of town is not the way to help them get back on their feet.

"I would love to have a job right now but we can't get employment," Chandler said. "There are some of us that would pull ourselves out of hell if we could."

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is also working on a solution. Last week, he asked city council to raise the user fee earlier than scheduled to fund more police officers.

Council has not made their decision yet; we'll keep you posted.