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Tomblin restarts homeless program

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued an executive order Wednesday reactivating a program started in 2007 to fight homelessness in the state, and placing it under the Department of Health and Human Resources.

"Ending homelessness requires a collaboration among state agencies, local governments, the private sector and service provider networks to coordinate program development, deliver essential services and provide housing," Tomblin said in issuing the Thanksgiving-eve executive order reconstituting the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Originally created by executive order of then-Gov. Joe Manchin in 2007, the council had been inactive for the past few years.

In his order, Tomblin transferred the council from the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Department of Commerce to the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities in DHHR, saying the council's objectives and services are better matched to the mission of DHHR.

The governor cited a recent study conducted by the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness indicating that there are 3,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in West Virginia. Of those homeless, 45 percent are families, 18 percent are chronically homeless, and 15 percent are veterans.

As reconstituted, the council will be chaired by the commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, and will have seven additional members:

The governor, the commissioner of DHHR's Bureau for Children and Families, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance, the state superintendent of schools, the executive director of the Housing Development Fund, the secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, or their designees, and a representative from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

"I am confident the Council's collaboration with these groups will help reduce homelessness -- improving the overall quality of life within our communities," Tomblin said in a statement regarding the issuing of the executive order.

Tomblin's mandate for the council is to develop and implement a plan to end homelessness in the state.

Goals include expanding and maximizing housing resources, increasing access to state and federal social services resources, maximizing availability of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, and ensuring that persons released from state institutions have access to programs to prevent homelessness.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220. 


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