Items found within Kanawha County homeless encampment tell heartwrenching story


Along either side of the train tracks in Amandaville is an extensive homeless encampment.

One neighbor, Leonard Claytor, said, “If you want something from me, just ask.  Don’t steal it.”

Neighbors in the area have reached out.  Some have said their homes or buildings have been broken into.  Tens of thousands of dollars worth of items have been stolen from nearby businesses who asked to remain anonymous.  An abandoned church nearby was lit on fire recently. 

While I was standing outside of it, I watched two people go inside. 

Residents in the area said crime has increased as the size of the camp has grown.  

Claytor was born and raised in Amandaville.  His parents live right up the street.  He said he’s filed numerous police reports with the Sheriff’s Office. 

One building in particular that he owns has been hit several times.  “They go in, but the alarm system catches them,” he said.  “So, they just run and grab what they can grab and take off.  Strewn things all over the place.  They have disarayed the whole building.

The uptick in crime that many residents believe is the result of the people living in the encampment is the reason why I went there to begin with.  That was the story.  But, I looked inside one of the tents and the story changed.

Children’s clothing, a toy airplane and cars, a child’s cup, building blocks, a Christmas stocking hanging from a makeshift tent with the name, “Gabby” written on it. 

While I was there, no one was around.  It was quiet, and obvious that the person living there tried to make the little spot in the woods feel like home- even down to the air freshener hanging from a tree branch. 

It’s not easy to see, but this is just one example of dozens of these encampments in our region.  In this case, deputies and outreach workers are stepping in and they’ve made it very clear- resources, housing, help, it’s all available for anyone who needs it.  

You can dial 211 on any mobile device for assistance, or click here for help.

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