Charleston homeless miss closed ‘peer center’

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A few makeshift beds with tarps over them are camped out next to a former Prestera “peer center” where the homeless could go in and congregate.

Even though Prestera closed it over a year ago, many homeless in the area will tell you they miss having a space like that in downtown Charleston.

One homeless man said to 13 News he used to go in and have hot chocolate and watch TV.

“I was able to take a shower, be able to wash my clothes, I was able to get help with shelter, I was able to get help getting my mail, and ever since that center has been closed me and my husband have been out on the streets,” said a homeless woman who goes by Blessings to 13 News.

According to Blessings, she’s been banned by the majority of the other homeless agencies but the peer center run by Prostera would still welcome her.

As the surrounding agencies have had to deal with restrictions on their services because of the pandemic, the people living on the streets say they can’t always get the services they need.

“There are so many people that are out here trying to get services, it’s overwhelming; with the amount of people that are coming to Charleston it’s like fish swimming up a stream, you just, you just have to wait in line,” said one man 13 News spoke to.

The Kanawha Valley Collective now presides over the state-owned building where the peer center was.

During the summer they temporarily offered showers and laundry in it.

“It was something that happened just kind of quickly in response to a community need, we had never been able to be a long-term solution with that,” said Kanawha Valley Collective executive director Traci Strickland.

Strickland says she knows a place like the old peer center is needed, but it’s a service that’s hard to recreate in these pandemic times.

Instead, the KVC is now working at turning the building into a centralized assessment center that will help people individually find housing.

“We’re looking at some solutions, and really kind of looking at what will homeless services be in our area going forward,” said Strickland.

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