Community, Latest News, News

Success at Spruce Street warming shelter

The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter at the Spruce Street United Methodist Church opened its doors on Dec. 4 after months of planning, and initial reports indicate it is a success.

Back in November, the Emergency Food and Shelter Committee of United Way announced its development of a Warming Shelter Plan for the homeless citizens of Morgantown. The plan included making Spruce Street United Methodist Church a warming shelter on nights colder than 32 degrees for those who could not get emergency shelter at the Bartlett House on University Avenue.

The shelter is “going extremely well,” according to an email to The Dominion Post from Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones. “Staff have been humbled by the guest’s gratitude for the safe and warm space,” she said.

In just over a week, the overflow has opened seven nights as colder weather settles into the area for winter. The total number of overnight visits at the shelter was up to 53 as of Friday, and twice the shelter has reached its capacity of 15 guests.

“We were the overflow, so that would mean the Bartlett was full as well,” said Rev. Neil Leftwich of Spruce Street United Methodist Church. “What’s most important is that we have neighbors who are in from out of the elements, staying warm and getting some sleep.”

The warming shelter is a partnership between Friendship House (a pro-gram of Milan Puskar Health Right), Spruce Street United Methodist Church and United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties. They cooperate with Bartlett House through its triage shelter on University Avenue.

As previously reported, those seeking protection from the elements first need to go to Bartlett House on University Avenue, where vouchers will be issued for overflow clients to get into the warming shelter once Bartlett is at capacity. Bartlett currently has a capacity to provide 28 people with emergency housing. A Bartlett House voucher proving you have no other shelter option must be obtained to gain entrance to the overflow shelter at the Spruce Street church.

Health Right hired three employees specifically to staff the shelter. They are supported by other Friendship House employees as necessary, as well as

“Over 20 volunteers have signed up and done background checks,” Jones said. She highlighted three dedicated volunteers who have been working consistently the nights the warming shelter has opened.

“The support from the community has been very strong, individuals just calling and saying this is what really needs to happen,” Leftwich said. “But also folks calling in wanting to offer support in different ways.”

The overflow shelter is still in its early days, and winter has only just begun. Help and support of any kind is always welcome.

“We can always use warm blankets, coffee, snacks and financial donations to assist with the cost of the program,” Jones said.

TWEET @DominionPostWV