Organizations clarify shelter policy, encourage people in need to use it

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –  The emergency shelter in Monongalia County, operated by Bartlett Housing Solutions, has been in operation since November 20 at 20 Scott Ave. in Hazel’s House of Hope.

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town,” Executive Director Keri Demasi said a total of 68 people in need have been served during this winter season.

“We averaged about 35 to 36 people every night when the temperatures were really cold, and that’s been pretty consistent throughout the winter so far,” Demasi said.

Many people who go to the shelter are under the influence, and that’s ok, according to Demasi. While illegal substances are not allowed inside paraphernalia, other items will be held for clients while they are checked in.

“If they have any of those things, they turn them in, and we put them in a bag marked for them, and they can be returned to them when they leave,” Demasi said. “But we do have folks that come in under the influence often.”

The Bartlett House and other non-profits continuously update the number of beds on social media so people in need know the resource is available. Outreach efforts are also used to meet people where they receive services to make sure they know.

“I’m working to encourage folks to get out of the cold,” Demasi said. “Especially during the frigid temperatures, which are very much a health concern.”

Despite their efforts to communicate availability, many are still on the street in the cold. Demasi believes people have a misconception about drugs and the shelter and emphasized that drugs are not allowed inside, but paraphernalia items will be held while the client is checked in and returned when they leave.

“That is a direct result of the substance abuse disorder crisis or drug epidemic that is facing our nation,” Demasi said. “Not wanting to come in because of not having access to a drug supply.”

The Bartlett House staff will continue their work and also clarify their policy to encourage more people to get inside out of the cold and take advantage of available opportunities. As with all the people suffering from addiction, their hope is that their time in the emergency shelter will lead them to life-long change.

“You have to do your best as an organization and as a community to encourage folks to come into the shelter, hoping that is the first step to connecting them to long-term resources or a long-term solution,” Demasi Said.