WHAT IS #WALK4WV?
#WALK4WV is a walk from Morgantown, WV to the State Capitol in Charleston, WV that will be undertaken by Rev. Zac Morton, beginning on Sept. 21, 2020. The walk will. cover a distance of over 175 miles and highlight issues surrounding the experience of persons experiencing houselessness and extreme poverty in West Virginia.
#WALK4WV is a call for compassion. It is a call for all people in the state of West Virginia to recognize that there is a crisis of houselessness and extreme poverty in our beloved state, and that too many of its beloved citizens are stuck in cycles of extreme poverty by a complex network barriers that could be removed.
#WALK4WV is a platform to tell the stories of our most vulnerable West Virginia citizens, highlight barriers to progress, and imagine practical solutions that can help improve the situation for so many. It is also a storytelling platform to help overcome the stigma and misunderstanding that acts as a major barrier to imagining effective solutions together.
WHY ARE WE WALKING?
A note from Zac Morton:
I serve as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Morgantown, WV and one of the great privileges I have is to work with some of our most vulnerable Morgantown citizens. Our church serves a pancake breakfast every Sunday morning. We also offer space for houseless individuals to rest on Sundays when other public spaces are closed. We offer emergency food, transportation, and work with many direct service organizations here in Morgantown.
As a result of this work, we form relationships with many people who are houseless and/or facing extreme poverty and in crisis situations. Many of them do not fit into the systems that are, surprise surprise, not designed to truly address the complexities of their situations.
I have witnessed many forms of stigma directed at these individuals. I have seen how they are treated as invisible. I have seen many people with privilege treat them as a nuisance or as an eyesore to be removed. I have watched them slip through the cracks of existing systems and organizations, or experience various forms of mistreatment.
I have heard many of their stories of hardship and difficulty, and their experiences of feeling invisible. I have heard many of them share stories from their past, or better times or worse times. I have heard their stories of trauma and their stories of hope.
I have also met many other individuals and organizations in Morgantown and beyond who have hearts full of compassion for these individuals and the hardships they face. There are so many people doing amazing work in Morgantown to provide in so many ways - from food, to healthcare, to substance use recovery, and transportation. I have seen the compassion of individuals at work and it gives me a great deal of hope.
I know that there are thousands of people in West Virginia who want to lead with compassion, and who are willing to support creative solutions that address the complexities of the situations houseless persons are facing. I know that there are thousands of us who want to affirm the dignity and lift the voices of people experiencing extreme poverty. Together I believe that we can do better by our most vulnerable mountaineers.
At the most, I am a concerned West Virginia resident that wants to lead with compassion. I love hiking and backpacking long distances, and I enjoy creating virtual and social media content. I also love creating partnerships and connecting people.
#Walk4WV is my way of helping - taking the things that I know how to do and trying to use them to make our state a better place for all.
I am also a Christian, and as someone who strives to emulate Jesus, I believe it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of all people of faith, to advocate and care for people who are up against it the most.
It is my hope that any conversation generated around #WALK4WV and the stories we are able to highlight will help reshape and refocus the way we approach the complexity of houselessness and extreme poverty. Instead of offering top-down solutions, we can partner with individuals and create networks of positive relationships that can lead to a better future for all West Virginians.
- Rev. Zac Morton