(Written by Joe Nelson)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County State Senator Mike Oliverio made an appearance in front of the county commission Wednesday to offer updates on state efforts to help fund the triage shelter formerly operated by Bartlett Housing Solutions.

Oliverio addressed the commission at the end of their regular meeting on Wednesday, where he announced that he has been in communications with Governor Jim Justice’s office to have approximately $167,000 in state funding redirected towards the new organization that will run the shelter. This will come from funding that was originally intended for Bartlett Housing Solutions as part of an allocation from the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, which would likely go to Catholic Charities through efforts from Justice’s office.

“Right now, it appears that the governor’s office is going to come through the Department of Human Services, with $167,000, to help with the administration (of the shelter),” said Oliverio when he addressed the commission.

Efforts to have the funds repurposed for a triage shelter in Monongalia County have taken place over the last several months. This stems from the removal of the state allocation from Bartlett House, which has traditionally hosted triage shelters in the past, due to an administrative issue, which in turn led to a strong possibility of unhoused individuals. Catholic Charities has been in talks with local providers and local leaders since financial problems surfaced at the Bartlett House around the first of May. Those conversations with local and state leaders appeared to have made the decision to have the funds transferred easier to make on a state level.

“I think it’s all starting to come in the right direction,” Oliverio said. “The Catholic Charities becoming involved as an administrative force, I think, is going to be helpful,” he said.

According to Oliverio, a recent United States Supreme Court ruling related to unhoused individuals prompted efforts to be kicked to a higher level in Charleston. This ruling stated that while municipalities are able to handle respective homeless situations however they see fit, it also added that certain measures must be in place to prevent unhoused individuals from not being able to find shelter, especially in the event of inclement weather. With the ruling giving more guidelines on how to handle unhoused individuals on a state level, it also allowed for Governor Justice’s office to be more involved.

“To the extent that we can take all the steps that have been taken, get the state funds, look to a nonprofit, charitable sector to support this, I think
we can have a win-win,” Oliverio said.

Members of the commission vocally expressed enthusiasm for the efforts made on a state level to address the funding. Along with the commission, the shelter has been heavily discussed within the chambers of Morgantown City Council as well as at several community meetings hosted around the Morgantown area, with some meetings becoming contentious. With an emphasized need to find a resolution before the start of the fall and now state funding that appears to be secured, the commission is ready to contribute to the group initiative.

“I do appreciate you jumping in there, because it’s a difficult situation there,” said Commissioner Tom Bloom. “Hopefully, this will start us moving into a compromise situation to resolve these issues,” he said.

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