2017-12-13 / Front Page

Homeless shelters are open; coalition briefs town officials

by Trish Rudder

More than 20 people attended the Bath council meeting on December 5, and the majority were there in support of the newly adopted Morgan County Homeless Coalition.

The council said last month they wanted to learn more about the coalition and members were invited to speak at a council meeting.

Phillip King, the pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church, who heads up the coalition, said he never knew there was a homeless problem here in Morgan County until he became a pastor.

King said when people called and asked for assistance he would have to tell them there were only limited services, and if they needed help beyond a week, “we have to send them to Martinsburg,” to its shelter.

King said the pastor at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church “started to challenge us as to what our options are to find a solution to this problem.” He said the group learned the leading cause of homelessness is poor wages – a low economy. “A low income is a leading cause of homelessness.”

He said the homeless coalition was formed and was approved for IRS status a 501(c)3 for a cold weather shelter in Morgan County.

King said the coalition opened its doors for the first time this December and the rotating shelter will be open through February. Each of the participating churches will provide shelter for one week at a time. He said they are all volunteer run and the rotating shelters are equipped to handle up to 12 people. People have to be 18 years old to be admitted. An evening meal is provided, overnight shelter and breakfast in the morning. No alcohol or drugs or weapons are allowed. If someone is mentally ill, the shelters would not be able to accommodate them.

King said the coalition “borrowed rules” from Jefferson County as that was the best fit for Morgan County to follow.

The Morgan County Homeless Coalition is “all volunteer driven,” with 41 volunteers so far. More are needed and they are recruiting. The coalition has a website and a social media page, he said.

King said Jefferson County has provided shelter for 10 years for about 16 people.

“But the number has decreased because they have helped them solve their homeless problems,” he said.

Mayor Scott Merki asked how the coalition helped families, and King answered that families are not accepted in the shelters. He said a homeless family is placed in the Berkeley Springs Motel and paid for by the coalition. The coalition helps the family set up an appointment with DHHR.

King said if a family needs assistance, they will be placed in a motel and they will be helped to set up an appointment with the local Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

The rotating shelters will be hosted at First United Methodist Church, Berkeley Baptist Church, Trinity Asbury United Methodist Church, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, and the United Methodist Church in Hancock.

King said the coalition wants to work with the town. “We don’t want to cause problems.”

“We want to work with the people and we want to do this the right way,” King said.

Carmen Winiarski, a member of the Faith Community Coalition for the Homeless in Berkeley County said she, her husband and 16-year-old son ended up homeless in December 2005 after her husband lost his job. When he became employed again, she said they did not have the first or last month’s rent plus the security deposit needed and had to sleep in a car from December to May until they accrued enough money. They only had one sleeping bag and would rotate whose turn it was to have it.

“I know what it’s like to be homeless,” she said. “It could take only one accident, one lost job and homelessness will apply to you,” Winiarski said.

Return to top