UPDATE (8/20/19 7:30 AM)
WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — The announcement that the Wheeling Salvation Army is closing its homeless shelter in September and for the rest of the year has left a void in the community.
They say the closure is in order to do renovations.
But those who advocate for the homeless say they’re shocked and extremely concerned because the closure will be in winter when the homeless are most vulnerable.
But one church in Wheeling says they can’t stand by and let this happen, so they’re creating a homeless shelter of their own.
“Well, the shocking thing for me has been that they (the Salvation Army) have done such a great job through the years,” said Pastor Terry Endsley of the Centre Wheeling Fellowship. “And to just shut it down with no backup and nowhere else for these people to go is really awful.”
The Centre Wheeling Fellowship, across the street from OVMC, is keenly aware of the homeless in winter.They say no one realizes it, but OVMC and Hillcrest are a refuge for the homeless on cold winter nights.
“The waiting room and hallways on the lower floor were always pretty crowded, because that’s one of the few places these homeless people could go,” explained Dave Holloway, church administrator. “And with the hospital closing, that option for them to get out of the cold is disappearing as well.”
Centre Wheeling Fellowship says they’ll open their basement to the homeless.And unlike the Salvation Army, they won’t make them leave in the morning.
“No, no, none of that is necessary,” said Pastor Endsley. “We have large enough facilities. We have another floor here as well, where they can go to watch TV, to stay inside. We don’t want to put them out in the cold.”
They say the YSS Winter Freeze Shelter is already pushing the envelope with the numbers of homeless people they take in.
The Centre Wheeling Fellowship, built as a German Lutheran Church In 1836, has plenty of room.
They’ll put up cots, add a shower to the bathrooms, and they already have a kitchen.
But what they don’t have is a sprinkler system, which they’ll need, according to the fire department.
They say it will cost $100,000, but they’re going to raise the money somehow.
This congregation of about 60 says no one has ever frozen to death in Wheeling that they know of, and they don’t want it to happen now.
“But it could happen one of these days,” said Holloway. “And none of us wants to look back and say well, we wish we would have done this or that.We’d rather be proactive. We’d rather help these people. We can’t force them into a shelter. But at least we can make it available to them.”
Here’s how you can donate to the sprinkler system. Checks can be sent to Project HOPE, c/o The Ohio County Health Department, 1500 Chapline Street, Suite 106, Wheeling, W.Va. 26003.
Or you can also donate to the sprinkler fund, Centre Wheeling Fellowship, 41 22nd Street, Wheeling, W.Va. 26003.