CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — With frigid temperatures returning to us on Friday and Saturday, 12 News gathered information for people experiencing homelessness in Clarksburg.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in its “2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress,” national “point-in-time count” estimates increased from 580,466 individuals experiencing homelessness to 582,462 between 2020 and 2022.
First United Methodist Church offers a temporary warming shelter that is open to anyone 18 and older. The warming shelter is unable to accept anyone younger because it does not have enough space to separate children and their parents from other sheltered population. It will open an hour earlier on Feb. 3, which will be at 7 p.m. The church has a total of 32 beds and a 60% occupancy rate. It is also first-come, first-serve.
Diana Higginbotham, co-director of the shelter told 12 News Reporter Makayla Schindler how the warming shelter works.
“When they come into the shelter at 8 p.m. in the evening, they get an evening meal and then when they are ready to leave the shelter, at 8 o’clock, they have a hearty-warm breakfast in the Fellowship Hall,” Higginbotham said.
Usually warming shelter hours are 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next day. Meals in the Fellowship Hall typically last until 9:30 a.m.
However, with the frigid temperatures around the low teens and single digits on Saturday, the Methodist Church will be using the Fellowship Hall as a warming station for shelter guests until noon, when the temperatures should rise a bit more. Higginbotham also mentioned that if you go into the shelter for a night, they will save you a bed for the next night up until 9 a.m. If you miss the next night, your bed will no longer be saved.
This church cares very much about its “homeless neighbors;” Higginbotham explained that they do not want to see individuals frost-bitten and struggling from the weather. Its primary purpose is to keep them off the streets, keep them warm through the night, and fill their bellies. They often partner with the Change Initiative and Clarksburg Mission to support the shelter.
The last day for the warming shelter will be March 17, until next winter season.
The United Way of Harrison and Doddridge Counties will also be doing something on Friday to offer some time out of the cold. Marissa Russell, director of homeless services brought up a weekly event they hold with West Virginia Wesleyan’s Center for Restorative Justice. They host a meal and a circle conversation every Friday.
“If folks are in town [Friday] and are looking for a hot meal, some friendly faces, and a good conversation, they can find us at First United Methodist from 2 [p.m.] to 4 [p.m.], here in downtown Clarksburg,” Russell said.
The United Way operates a “Street Outreach Program,” which aims to connect homeless individuals back to housing, retain all their vital documents, harm reduction, addiction treatment, discussing healthcare and behavioral healthcare opportunities. They partner with the First United Methodist Church every Tuesday and Thursday between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. During this time, those experiencing homelessness can shower, as well as get connected to the benefits listed above.
Russell mentioned that they offer a housing program called “Rapid Rehousing,” where their goal is to place individuals into housing, get them started, and help them work their way up to self-sufficiency. They work on budgeting, earning an income and benefits. Then they wean them on to things like Section Eight vouchers or paying their own rent through income.