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Encampment closed

City clears out, cleans up Diamond Village Monday

Diamond Village is gone.

What was once a collection of tents off Pennsylvania Avenue for a community of people experiencing homelessness is now just freshly turned over dirt and dump truck tracks after the City of Morgantown removed the camp  Monday.

Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli, who was at Diamond Village with gloves on Monday, helping to clean, said at one point there were at least 30 tents in the village.

Peer Recovery Coach Dani Ludwig, who once experienced homelessness herself, said the camp offered folks a family, community and safety.

Ludwig said she spent a lot of time at the camp organizing and helping its residents before burning out and scaling back on her efforts. She said the camp was her biggest project so far and brought her a lot of heartache.

Diamond Village was a central point for various nonprofit groups and volunteers to offer services to those in need, Ludwig said. There was also always a supply of Naloxone — a drug which, when administered promptly, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose — available for those who needed it.

It was previously reported that by mid-summer, nearly four dozen times the drug had been administered for opioid overdoses at the encampment.

diamond village item removal
Dani Ludwig, with Milan Puskar Health Right, throws out items left behind by former camp residents.

In late October, after Morgantown started clearing out residents, 23-year-old Rebecca Colgan died of an apparent overdose at the camp.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next,” Ludwig said. “I know that there’s people that are about to be evicted out of housing programs and this is where they came from. So, if they come back, I’m gonna support them. Regardless of what the city has to say.”

John Shubert, who lives next to the former Diamond Village, said its residents “really didn’t cause that much trouble.” He said he’s not happy to see people lose their community but he’s glad all the trash — of which there was a lot — is gone.

Housing programs were the city’s solution to the camp.

Muzzarelli said one of the reasons it took so long to close the camp was because of the city’s efforts to make sure its residents were housed.

 Monday morning, only one person was in Diamond Village. Muzzarelli said that person is already working with housing agencies and said they didn’t need housing until they had a permanent place.

Housing the camp’s residents was not easy — often the individuals being helped weren’t at the camp when city officials went looking and appointments were skipped, Muzzarelli said.

Most of Diamond Village was on city property, but some of it stretched onto private property.

Muzzarelli said the plan now is to consistently monitor the land to make sure it stays clean and well-maintained.

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