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Local shelters get homeless off cold streets

By Daniel Vanreenen, journal-news.net

45 days ago   Article ID# 3994519
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West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA (journal-news.net) - The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness is a complex system, according to Jason Mansfield, a street outreach worker.

Mansfield said the system at WVCEH has two methods of aid: Continuum of Care (CoC) — which involves analyzing underlying factors of homelessness in communities — and direct service, which addresses shelter and day-to-day needs for those without permanent homes.

Mansfield said his job requires him to be on the streets looking for community members sleeping outdoors. Mansfield tries to get homeless community members into shelters and off the streets.

“There’s an increased urgency to get people off the streets this time of year,” Mansfield said. “There’s also an increase in community interest and participation during the winter season.”

According to Mansfield, the Martinsburg Bethany House serves women and children, and The Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission serves men. While these organizations get community members without homes off the streets temporarily, it can be hard to become self-sufficient and into more permanent housing, which is why WVCEH helps those without homes with issues related to independent living arrangements.

Glenda Helman, executive director of the Bethany House, agreed that the main focus during the winter months is getting those without homes off the streets and into shelters. Helman said it’s hard to understand why, but sometimes those living outdoors need to be convinced entering a shelter is the best route.

“Some people are comfortable sleeping outside by themselves. Moving indoors is a drastic change to their way of life. Once we get them into the shelter, many ultimately decide they want to find permanent housing and be out of the cold,” Helman said.

In order to get the word out to those without homes, Helman said the Bethany House relies a lot on word of mouth and communication with other organizations in Berkeley County.

Helman said the shelter is usually full throughout most of the year, but right now they are not operating at full capacity.

“We haven’t seen much of an influx with the cold weather,” Helman said. “At the moment, we’re placing everyone coming in at shelters without a problem. We don’t know why this year is different — maybe families let those without homes stay a little longer after the holidays.”

Helman said the Bethany House works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help those in need find shelter on the same day they ask.

According to Mansfield, a crucial way to help the local homeless community is by helping with the Point in Time survey. Volunteers can register to be in the community for one 24 hour day to find and collect data on any person without a permanent home. The information tells WVCEH a lot about where funding and programs are needed.

Helman said last year’s Point in Time survey revealed a lot about the Eastern Panhandle’s efforts to combat homelessness. The survey stated 174 women and 59 children received 9,198 nights of shelter and 12,593 on-site meals through the Bethany House. The Rapid Re-housing Program, which pairs individuals and families with case management services to help with the quick transition into housing, assisted 47 individual — 28 adults and 19 children.

Copyright 2017 journal-news.net   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 45 days ago   Article ID# 3994519

West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness    Visit Website

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