CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — The Clarksburg Mission has recently been on the receiving end of social media criticism regarding changes it made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critical posts made on Facebook claim that the facility is no longer a mission, with one even referring to it as a “halfway house.”
According to staff from the Clarksburg Mission, the organization has gone through many changes since the pandemic with one of the more significant ones being the loss of its emergency shelter.
Prior to the pandemic, the Mission offered an emergency shelter in addition to its in-house recovery program for those struggling with substance use disorder or homelessness. The shelter allowed people on the streets to stay there without being drug tested—unlike the residents in the recovery program—and provided them with a safe place to rest at night.
All of that changed during the pandemic when the facility was mandated to shelter-in-place.
“The emergency shelter necessarily closed as a way to protect those who were sheltering here permanently from COVID,” stated Natalie Gigliotti, the mission’s Community Liaison.
After the emergency shelter closed down, those staying at the Mission were given the option to stay and participate in the mission’s recovery program. However, many people chose to leave and the Clarksburg mission went from having over 50 people to about 13 in a matter of two weeks around the time that the shelter shut down.
“I think that the backlash is really just a matter of people not understanding or knowing what we do here. We still help folks, we can’t force people to want help,” said Desi Underwood, the Interim Executive Director of the Clarksburg Mission.
However, some of the people who stayed during the pandemic had been using the shelter for years. “Literally years. Coming and going, coming in at night, going out during the day, recovery not even on their radar,” Underwood added. “They had what they needed to survive, and so they were choosing to stay in that lifestyle.”
Once they did stay and join the program, many of the participants eventually ended up working for the Mission, some of them even becoming directors of different programs for the organization. “And I have no doubt that had that not occurred, they probably wouldn’t even be alive,” Underwood said, regarding the shutdown of the emergency shelter.
Following the shutdown of the shelter, the Mission rebranded its recovery program into an immersive ‘resurrection program,’ which is a two-phase, faith-based program designed to help people become fully sober and self-sufficient over a time period of about a year and a half.
“It’s more intentional, it’s more focused, but it is still the population that is homeless,” Underwood said. “Most of that population suffers from addiction issues, we are still serving the same population, just in a different fashion.
Although many of the community members the Mission serves are struggling with some form of substance use, this recovery program helps address other issues that could be the root of a person’s substance abuse or homelessness.
“People are recovering from many things, and really the substance use is just how they’re recovering from the real issue. So, you take the substance abuse away, you’re getting down to the real things that they need recovery from,” said Underwood.
Gigliotti said that anyone who has any concerns or questions about the program is encouraged to stop by the Mission and see it for themselves.
“There’s no conspiracy theory here. We are all doing this out of love for God. The Clarksburg Mission has been and always will be a place where we share the transformative love of God with people in need, that’s what we’re doing here.”
For more information on the Clarksburg Mission and all of the different services they provide, you can visit their website here. To stay up to date with the latest changes as they come to the facility, you can sign up for updates using the ‘stay informed’ tab on the website’s homepage.