(This story was written by Joe Nelson)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Catholic Charities of West Virginia has offered the City of Morgantown their services to host a year-long emergency triage shelter within city limits.

President and CEO of the Catholic Charities of West Virginia, Mark Phillips, presented a request for proposal during Morgantown City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, where he broke down the cost of the year-long service. This included the minimum number of people that would be required to run the shelter, which organizations would partner in offering services, and which public entities would be required to financially contribute in order to make the shelter a reality.

“So, recognizing that an emergency shelter was a need in Morgantown, some of the board members at Hazel’s House (of Hope) came to us and asked can we talk about this,” said Phillips in his presentation to the council. “To see what it would look like for Catholic Charities to do those operations,” he said.

According to Phillips, Christian Help would run the 365 day, 24/7 emergency triage shelter at the social service hub Hazel’s House of Hope for the cost of approximately $500,000. This would account for two employees being paid $15 per hour to work at the shelter, and that’s also without any budgeted expenditures on social services such as avenues to secondary housing. Phillips also added that the cost could increase depending on what kind of secondary services are provided to any unhoused individuals who are using the shelter.

“When talking about a 24/7, 365 (a day shelter), if you had just two people there all the time, making $15 an hour with benefits, you’re already at about $350,000,” said Phillips, describing the cost. “That’s not to help out with rent, treatment, or anything else they need,” he said.

Bartlett House, the nonprofit organization that has helped run the Morgantown emergency triage shelter in the past, is expected to maintain some involvement in the services provided. While Phillips empathized that Christian Help would be the organization that would take the lead in hosting the triage shelter itself, plans are in place to work with Bartlett House on social services that may not be provided by Christian Help, such as drug rehabilitation services. Phillips discussed the potential partnership in response to a question from Councilor Brian Butcher.

“So we might find ways to partner with Bartlett (House) in some of the other things that they’re doing, but with the situation at Hazel’s House right now, I think it would have to be us,” Phillips said.

Though no financial contributions were approved by the council during Tuesday’s meeting, each of the members supported exploring a way to contribute to the shelter. According to Phillips, Catholic Charities of West Virginia has begun work to transfer $167,000 allocated by the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, which was originally awarded to Bartlett House. As those funds are scheduled to be transferred, members of the council were urged to not only consider a city allocated contribution, but also to work with the Monongalia County Commission and residents to work towards what is expected to be a close to $250,000 contribution. For members of the council, they hope to determine a financial contribution within the next couple of months.

“You have the administrative structure in place, and you are capable of taking this on,” said Morgantown City Councilor Bill Kawecki, supporting a potential financial allocation from the city. “What the hang up now is the funding to support the structure,” he said.

Members of the Monongalia County Commission were in attendance during the council’s meeting, and they were also supportive of financially contributing to the proposed year-long shelter. Commissioner Jeff Arnett and Commissioner Tom Bloom each spoke in favor of the proposal after the presentation, with a plan to find long term financial mechanisms as a point in the right direction. While they, much like members of the council, don’t expect the triage shelter concerns to be solved overnight, the commissioners appeared more than ready to work towards a solution that makes everybody happy.

“What I was waiting to hear, which he said at the end was that this would be a one-year commitment, then they would start going after the (long-term) funding mechanisms,” said Commissioner Tom Bloom, who supported the proposal. “That’s what we were very concerned about, and that’s what we wanted to hear, I know I’m ready to move forward on it,” he said.

Phillips said they would prefer to operate the facility with a three year contract, but would be open to fill the need on the shorter term basis.

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