New River Tenants Union resolutely stands against the anti-poor measures brought forward by the Christiansburg Town Council to restrict halfways houses. These proposed measures are entirely a reaction to the fear of people in our community who are struggling the most. These measures send a message to the community and surrounding area that the Town of Christiansburg does not want to deal with our social problems of poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness.

The solution to this problem is not one of relying on private charity – which will never resolve these issues – but public resources dedicated to investing in all of our community members. As of now we not only have members of our community who suffer from lack of healthcare, drug addiction, untreated mental illness, and homelessness, but also low wages, lack of affordable housing, and sub-par housing among local slumlords.

These resolutions and the rhetoric reported in local news reveals an agenda to make our community even less welcoming for poor people and more orientated towards corporate interests. If we look at the specific language of these proposals they not only will severely restrict where a halfway house can go, but also makes the code more friendly for hotels and motels.

How is this not orientating to the further expanding influence of Virginia Tech, and all the corporate interests in our area who don’t want to be reminded poor and working people live here? Poor and working class people are steadily being driven out through the regular collaboration between the local municipal governments of Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, and Montgomery County, and the corporations who come here to take advantage of us.

There was a lot of talk at the last town council meeting about what it means to be a Christian and how it relates to this issue. We would like to emphasize that Jesus was a partisan of the poor, he chose to defend the lepers, the prostitutes, and the “criminals”. He attacked moneylenders in the interest of those he defended. If he were here today we know where he would stand on this issue.

This problem of incarceration, drug addiction, and untreated mental illness is pervasive throughout Appalachia, every community is affected by this and we have to create community solutions – which absolutely DOES NOT mean displacement of poor people and their issues onto the next town or county over. Recidivism is a problem because state and corporate policies discriminate against poor people with records.

It is a stigma they are forced to carry the rest of their lives despite having served their sentences. They are pushed back to incarceration because of this. The town taking these sorts of measures only furthers to reenforce this trend. We demand the Christiansburg Town Council votes down these proposals and instead begin to find real solutions to these social problems of our poor and working class community members.


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