Editorials, Opinion

Morgantown must find a warming shelter before winter

While we applaud Bartlett House for adding beds to its shelter for the winter, we are disappointed that no one has stepped up to provide a warming shelter for the cold months.

We understand that Hazel’s House of Hope may not have been the best fit for the warming shelter, though it did an admirable job last year. We’re surprised, though, that none of the organizations and churches that previously hosted warming shelters have volunteered again, given that Hazel’s House is no longer an option.

The City of Morgantown has allocated $30,000 for a cold weather shelter this year, and the county has offered $10,000 for the endeavor. Bartlett House will likely receive a small portion of those funds to cover the costs of the 12 beds it will add this winter. However, last year’s emergency shelter regularly saw 60 people or more come in from the cold. Bartlett’s 40 beds will definitely not be enough.

More than money, the primary obstacle seems to be lack of an agency or facility willing to host the cold weather shelter. In winter 2019-20, the Spruce Street United Methodist Church acted as an overflow shelter when nights dipped below 34 degrees, and it was staffed by a mix of volunteers and Health Right staff. In 2018, Caritas House on Scott Avenue filled the role.

What changed?

Have the regulations become so strict that no one can meet them? Have the legal requirements become so onerous that no one is willing to take on the liability? Has staffing the shelter fallen solely on untrained volunteers who don’t feel comfortable continuing the work? Or is it an issue of money, after all?

One thing is for certain: Morgantown needs a warming shelter come winter. It’s too dangerous to leave individuals outside in freezing temperatures overnight. We know many people worked behind the scenes to try to secure a cold weather shelter. However, since those efforts failed, we need to bring the issue center stage. More attention is likely to lead to new ideas, and from those new ideas, we may find a workable solution.