How the Clarksburg Mission is coping with COVID: Recovery during the pandemic

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – As the state begins to open back up, it’s a time of reflection for the team at the Clarksburg Mission.

For the past few months, the Mission has made every effort to practice social distancing. They have had to shut down their secondhand store to add more room for people to sleep. They installed a new shower, washer, and dryer in the store to make it a fully functional dorm space. They knocked down walls, installed doors, and they’ve been quarantining anyone who wants to come in for 14 days.

The Clarksburg Mission cleared out their dining room so that they can practice social distancing while holding in-house recovery meetings.

“We’ve had to lock residents down here and keep them in and that’s been hard,” said Lou Ortenzio, Executive Director, “We lost about a third of our residents because they couldn’t comply with that.”

One of the biggest challenges through all this, they explained, is keeping the residents entertained with board games, chess tournaments and other activities.

The dining room has been cleared out, and now acts as a recreational area and a place to hold their own in-house recovery meetings. Though much of the Mission’s work has been stalled due to different services being shut down, leaders at the Mission said it can be seen as a positive.

“We feel that sometimes we can rush people into housing, the ability for them to get into housing, resources that they have, it’s substantial,” said Ortenzio, “And maybe they leave before they’ve worked on all their issues and there’s as much support out there in the community as they need so they’re rushing into housing but they’re ill equip to manage their housing. So it’s given us a little bit more time to work on some of those issues.”

The Clarksburg Mission shut down their thrift store to create more bed space.

Older Mission residents were taken to an off-site church gym to separate the more vulnerable residents from the general population. At the time of this interview, Ortenzio said those folks would be coming back to the Mission soon. 

“That was absolutely huge because we were concerned that if it came and COVID broke out in this population, we’re like a big Petri dish,” said Ortenzio, “Not quite like a nursing home, but on the other hand we do have some nursing home aspects to it that could spread and the older folks who are more vulnerable, the older folks who have asthma and related conditions who could potentially die from it. If we could get them isolated or away from risk, and this church was willing to give us the gym and we moved our older residents out there.”

The Mission is expected to open its doors a little more and accept people into their programs. While the emergency shelter will remain closed for now, Lou says they will continue to intensify their programs and monitor the pandemic.

“We’ve been blessed not to have a COVID case in here all this time. We feel very fortunate that God’s grace has been through all that,” said Ortenzio.

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