The Diamond Village homeless camp is set to be cleared on Nov. 30 by the city of Morgantown after a notice was placed on the property last week.
The notice states, “No person is permitted to remain on the property beyond this date.”
The Diamond Village homeless encampment consists of a group of people experiencing homelessness in Morgantown. It is located on city property between Pennsylvania Ave and Deckers Creek in a collection of tents and other structures built by the residents.
In August, the Morgantown City Council ordered the clearing of this space, but promised they wouldn’t do so until it was completely vacated. The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (WVCEH) began to register and move around 20 people residing in the encampment into housing with the help of the Bartlett House, a homeless shelter in Morgantown.
In September, the city of Morgantown offered incentives for local landlords to rent to homeless individuals, including those at Diamond Village. A $500 leasing bonus and $1,500 for damage claims were among the incentives offered.
According to Keri DeMasi, CEO and executive director of the Bartlett House, of the original group that was registered, all but one person has been moved into housing or accepted a housing offer, and the one remaining resident is currently looking at possible apartments.
Opinions on the situation are mixed. Liira Raines, a volunteer with Justice for Diamond Village, said that she believes the Bartlett House exaggerated the number of residents at the encampment at 50, when she witnessed only 15 residents there at the time.
She also claims that, of the people originally housed in July, eight of them are currently being evicted.
“They have totally broken their promise to house our 25 people on the list," Raines said. "A couple are in jail, but still at last count they'd housed eight I believe. At least one is still in the village, unhoused.”
There are still people living in the encampment. The number of people currently residing there has not been determined by city officials or the Bartlett House. With the city moving forward with the clean-up of the property, DeMasi said the Bartlett House and the WVCEH are still working to help those in need of housing.
“Anytime we’ve encountered anybody down there that hasn’t been on the original registration list, we really encourage them to, and educate them that the system is in place and these agencies are in place to still assist them into getting into housing,” DeMasi said, “We will continue to work with them after the Diamond Village is closed and the encampment is closed.”
DeMasi says that anybody experiencing homelessness in Morgantown should reach out to the Bartlett House or the WVCEH, even by walking in to the Bartlett House, they can help an individual analyze what their barriers to housing are, and they will work with them to overcome those barriers.
“The city didn’t want to just displace people, that’s why it’s been going on as long as it has, they really wanted everybody to have the option to accept housing,” DeMasi said.