MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties, Bartlett Housing Solutions and the Salvation Army of Marion, Monongalia and Preston Counties will collaborate this winter to provide a cold-weather shelter for the unhoused.
The new shelter will be located at the Hazel House of Hope and open its doors every time the temperature drops to 40-degrees or lower. Janette Lewis, the United Way’s community impact director, said Bartlett House will operate the shelter, which comfortably sleeps 28. Some of the spaces, she said, are family units.
“We will operate that shelter 24/7 so folks don’t have to leave and go anywhere during the day when that shelter is and we have more than 28 if needed,” Lewis said. “We will utilize, we will open up our overflow, which is essentially — we have a cold shelter in place, but it may not help them when in need, so we’ll open up the overflow of our cold shelter and that will be just in the same facility inside the door. And Salvation Army has a space that is kind of cozy, you have a little fireplace and it’s right before you go into the dining area and we’re going to place mattresses in that space for anyone when this other shelter is full.”
Lewis said the overflow shelter can sleep at least 20 people.
The sleeping arrangements, she said, were mapped out with COVID restrictions in mind.
“If we don’t fit him in that little space, we will make sure that they’re inside,” Lewis said. “We have a huge facility in there, so if something would happen and that space would be full, we would certainly have other areas right as you come in to put mattresses and make sure people are okay.”
The cold-weather shelter will use mattresses instead of cots because they are more comfortable. All in all, Lewis added, the shelter will be a “safe space to sleep”.
It will have bathroom facilities, which will include a shower and handicap-accessible facilities.
This is just one of the many ways clients will feel comfortable when staying at the shelter.
As far as food goes, Lewis said, the Salvation Army will serve brunch five days a week, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In addition, it will also serve a hot meal for dinner between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as well.
“Operating everything there allows us like a one-stop-shop so we don’t have so much difficulty keeping people safe and fed during the cold winter,” Lewis said. “Folks will say ‘what about transportation’, well the bus, the Mountain Line busing system will run up to — right to the door of the facility until eight o’clock at night.”
And, Lewis said, there is a network of volunteers who will work to get people to the shelter once the bus stops running. Volunteers will even offer rides to the shelter during the day.
Friendship House and Milan Puskar Health Right volunteers are going to work “extended hours” in the evening to make sure people who need rides can always have access.
“It gives us a solution for a cold shelter that we’ve never really had before,” Lewis said. “Because we’ve always had to worry about what space we’re going to use if Bartlett gets full.”
The cold-weather shelter, Lewis said, is made possible through the collaborative efforts of nonprofits, as well as the City of Morgantown and Monongalia Co.
The County Commissioner recently allocated $10,000 for the shelter. Soon, the City will decide whether to also allocate money for the shelter next week.
Lewis said three city council members have even reached out to volunteer at the shelter. The cohesion from the nonprofits all the way up to the county level “has been amazing”, United Way’s Community Impact Director said.
“That’s what we have to do as a county and a community, work together,” Lewis said. “Because when we work together, we are a force, you know, we can do so many positive things.”
The cold-weather shelter is seeking volunteers, Lewis said. And, it will even provide volunteers training.
There will be a training session at Hazel House of Hope at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
“We would really encourage them to attend,” Lewis said. “If they can’t, we will probably have some virtual options and one-on-one training as we go forward. But, it will just mainly be for, you know, some good ideas on working with this population on de-escalation training and what happens in an emergency, what they do; just some basic overview of the shelter.”
If you have any further inquiries about volunteering, you can reach Janette Lewis at email@example.com.