Collecting Data

PARKERSBURG – Wood County officials said they are monitoring the number of public intoxication arrests and dispositions to determine if there is a need for an inebriant shelter.

In the meantime, Latrobe Street Mission officials say they are waiting to hear back from the commissioners as they move ahead with plans for a community kitchen in their facility.

Greg Smith, mission board president, said lease arrangements would need to be finalized, and construction, layout of the new kitchen, dining room and new restrooms might be affected depending on whether there is an inebriant shelter within the facility, and its configuration.

“We have been moving ahead with plans while waiting to hear back from the commissioners. I will probably draft a letter this week. They toured the facility, and we are now at the point where we are getting ready to finalize plans for the kitchen and we need to know if we will be putting in the shelter,” said Smith.

Earlier this year, after learning Westbrook Health Services would no longer be providing the shelter for public intoxication defendants out of Amity Center, the commissioners asked Latrobe Street Mission to consider setting up a shelter at the facility.

Latrobe Street drew up plans and checked into renting additional space in the facility it operates to guarantee separation of the homeless shelter and the inebriants.

Westbrook was operating the inebriant shelter with the aid of grant funding, which Westbrook officials said they may no longer be eligible to receive and would not be applying for due to security and other concerns with the shelter.

The deadline to apply for a new grant has passed so Latrobe Street Mission officials told commissioners they would need about $60,000 to operate until a new grant cycle arrived in late fall.

Latrobe Street Mission officials said with the numerous projects the homeless shelter is involved with, it did not have those funds and would need the county’s help to set up the shelter and operate until a grant could be obtained.

Smith said mission officials have met with Westbrook officials and everyone felt confident the mission would be eligible for the grant funding.

“Especially if we had the footprint for the facility, we should be a good contender. We are still looking for a grant, that would be almost a year away. It is going to be more difficult to change the plans and the rental area may not be available later,” Smith said.

“We have a good plan on how to make it work, but if the commissioners don’t want to pursue it, we would have to go back to the drawing board if they want to move ahead later,” Smith said. “It will cost a lot less and we can guarantee the space if we do it now. Later, we may not be able to rent what is needed,” Smith said.

Having everything in order when they apply for the grant would make it more likely to obtain the grant funding, Smith said.

The inebriant shelter provided a temporary safe, secure shelter for individuals arrested by police on public intoxication and related charges, allowing them time to sober up.

Smith told the commissioners earlier the costs would include a lease for the space, construction to create the secure room, hiring a staff member, utilities and related operational expenses.

Part of the reason the shelter for those arrested for public intoxication was provided was to reduce regional jail costs for the county because individuals who have no place to go are taken to the Holding Center then transported to the regional jail in Doddridge County. The county is charged $48.25 a day for the care of prisoners.

In February, the commissioners toured the Latrobe Street facility and the area proposed for the inebriant shelter.

“We gave them a checklist of things to do. We agreed to go back and look at the jail bill and Holding Center and see if not having the shelter was creating a problem. So far we haven’t heard that more people are being brought into the Holding Center and the emergency room traffic doesn’t seem to have increased as a result of not having the shelter available,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

“The Latrobe Street Mission has a lot on their plate right now, so as long as we can hold the line on the jail bill; so far we haven’t heard of any problems; it’s being handled. We’ll look at the next couple of months; the new grant cycle isn’t until the end of the year,” Couch said.

The mission is in a portion of the former Storck Bakery building and warehouse and provides temporary shelter for the homeless, averaging 70-75 men, women and children a night.