WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – The YSS Winter Freeze Shelter is seeing a need and rising to meet it.

This year, the Wheeling Salvation Army has a new policy excluding women and children from their homeless shelter.

At the same time, other issues are causing homelessness to spike.

Dr. William Mercer and Project HOPE recently came across a woman with four little children….all pulling suitcases.

We were out by one of the camps, and obviously there were some special needs that needed to be addressed right away.

Dr. William Mercer

The numbers of people sleeping outside in Wheeling are higher than ever.

Pretty consistently in the last couple months it’s been in the neighborhood of 100 people, 40 of those being women, a number of those being pregnant women.

John Mosses

Yeah it’s pretty concerning. If you see what the weather’s like now, if you’re under a tent or under a bridge, it’s a matter of safety, plus the health issues.

Dr. William Mercer

The Winter Freeze Shelter is opening its doors one month early, November 15th rather than December 15th. That first month will be for women only.

It’s possible because of donations from the JB Chambers Foundation, an anonymous donor and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The incredible generosity of this community to make this happen. Because there’s no federal funds, no state funds. It’s all the generosity of this community and it has never failed us.

John Mosses

Project HOPE has an exam room in the Winter Freeze Shelter

They see homeless patients with everything from open sores to paralysis.

It’s tough to live on the street with that. Yeah those are the issues that we live with on a daily basis. You just, unless you’re out there seeing it, and sometimes we have our blinders on and we don’t recognize what’s going around. I never did until we got into this and then it was quite eye-opening.

Dr. William Mercer

Whatever the cause of homelessness–job loss, family change or addictions—they don’t judge.

They just help.

You know there’s a moral imperative that we respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters and try to put them in a better place.

John Mosses

A better place than outside in the elements, as winter approaches.

It is horrible. That’s where the Winter Freeze has really filled the gap all these years.

They’re now continuing to fill the gap by opening early for homeless women.