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Six Diamond Village residents moved into housing, 18 remain at the encampment

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown Communications Manager Andrew Stacy said there are 18 people still living at the Diamond Village encampment off Pennsylvania Avenue, in lower Greenmont.

Of that number, 11 are among the 25 or so inhabitants registered by the city in its plan to ultimately remove the camp, which has been on city property since mid-July, when it was forced off a piece of adjacent private property where it was first located in March.

“Six individuals have been moved into apartments and are housed. Ten are no longer living at the encampment, meaning they are either in the hospital, jail or just no longer living at the encampment,” Stacy said. “There are 18 still on the site, only 11 of those from the original group. Seven of those 11 have “housing offers” but the agencies have tried unsuccessfully so far to meet up with them to have them look at/move into apartments.”

The city’s plan, laid out by Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli on Aug. 18, focused on registering the people living on the site and offering those individuals housing prior to posting a two-week notice and clearing the property.

The city’s path forward was announced a little over a week after it was put on notice by the Monongalia County Health Department that it was operating a campground without proper permitting. The notice also noted public health issues with the site, including the accumulation of garbage.

Stacy said the city still plans to post the 14-day notice once everyone on the original list has been given a housing offer. He also noted the city is working to secure housing for those not registered, “but they won’t necessarily be given a housing offer before closing the camp.”

There currently isn’t a date by which the city wants to have the property cleared, Stacy explained.

But time is short.

“I guess the difficulty is we can’t house people quickly enough before winter,” Milan Puskar Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones said. “They’ve been down there since March, the camp has, and we still haven’t been able to get everyone housed. We really didn’t want to have the camp going for as long as we’ve had it, but we can’t get people housed.”

Health Right is one of the agencies working with the inhabitants of  Diamond Village by providing peer counseling and maintaining the portable restroom facilities.

Jones said she would like to see the camp set up in accordance with Center for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines for encampments, which would require a larger space as tents need to be at least 12 feet apart.

“It’s been difficult to set that up without support. We don’t have really any serious support because we would need to move it, really, to a bigger space,” Jones said. “We have approached the city several times. I guess we’re very grateful they’ve been committed to keeping the camp where it is until people are housed, but we haven’t been successful at finding space that’s bigger.”