By Dawn Hensil
For the first time this year, the United Way has opened a cold-weather shelter for people in need.
The shelter is located at the First United Methodist Church in Clarksburg and will be active until the end of March, according to Marisa Rexroad, the United Way of Harrison and Doddridge Counties director of homeless services,
It operates from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night so that the homeless can get out of the elements. Since the Mission in Clarksburg has transitioned to a recovery-focused program, the emergency shelter is no longer available. The Mission’s focus now is to help those individuals who are working towards recovery or maintaining recovery.
So without the active emergency shelter available, the cold weather shelter is a blessing for those who need somewhere warm to sleep during these harsh months. The shelter on average sees around twenty to thirty individuals each night, according to Rexroad.
The United Way also operate “a solution-focused street outreach team,” Rexroad said.
“We work throughout Harrison and Doddridge Counties to connect with folks who are experiencing outdoor homelessness and to connect them back to permanent stable housing, behavioral health care, medical health care, document readiness,” she said.
In addition, the United Way is among several organizations involved in an effort every January called the Point-In-Time Count, which aims to assess the extent of homelessness in an area by counting the population each year. The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, the Clarksburg-Harrison Regional Housing Authority, and the United Way of Harrison and Doddridge Counties participate.
The count was set to last for approximately 24 hours, from 4 p.m. Jan. 26 to 3:59 p.m. Jan 27. Participants collected as much information as possible from the homeless population. The goal was to calculate an estimate of the homeless population and determine what their needs are, according to Mary-Kate Bostick from the WV Coalition to End Homelessness.
The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness helps lead the count and provide the resources needed for each county lead to gather the information.
The count is requested by HUD to be done every other year, but Bostick said, “We feel like it’s best to do it every year because it’s a little bit easier to gauge trends.”
Since the coalition is also responsible for 43 other counties, they work with each individual county to identify one individual to help gather volunteers and train those volunteers on how to use an app that will collect the information. The volunteers collect their information on their cellular devices.
“The app is just like a survey,” Bostick said. “It collects in real time and automatically sends it to the one of the databases.” says Bostick.
This helps to make a visual for them to see trends in needs for the homeless. This information offers an overall count, as well as information on the number of veterans, families, and whether the person is chronically homeless. This will give the organizations a better direction on what services they should offer in the future.
As of press time, organizers hadn’t determined the final count.
More information about the count or those interested in volunteering with the United Way’s efforts to help the homeless should contact Marissa Rexroad email@example.com or calling 304-624-6337 ext. 1.