PARKERSBURG - Wood County commissioners Monday toured the Latrobe Street Mission homeless shelter and a vacant area available for lease that could be used as a new public inebriant shelter.
The mission is located 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.
There are sleeping quarters, shower facilities, computer access for Internet job searches and hot meals available for those in need. The shelter is in the process of building handicapped-accessible restrooms, and kitchen and community dining facilities.
Greg Smith, left, board president of the Latrobe Street Mission, and Jason Batten, operations manager, showed Wood County commissioners a vacant area available in the old Storck Bakery that could be leased for a public inebriant shelter. Westbrook Health Services is no longer providing the shelter at the Amity Center. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
After learning Westbrook Health Services would no longer be providing an inebriant shelter for the county, the commissioners asked the Latrobe Street Mission to consider taking over those responsibilities. The shelter provided a temporary safe, secure shelter for individuals arrested by police on public intoxication and related charges, allowing them time to sober up.
"This is the footprint we are considering leasing for the public inebriant shelter," Smith said, showing the commissioners the large open room available for lease.
It would be a 10-bed facility. Smith, along with Jason Batten, shelter operations manager; Shad Martin, director; Brenda Ridgeway, associate director; and several mission board members outlined the mission's proposed plans.
Smith said the board calculated the costs for operation and maintenance of the proposed inebriant shelter at around $60,000 annually, and the deadline to apply for grant funding for the year has already come and gone.
"We would need some help from the commission to set up the shelter this year, after that, we should be able to get grant funding," Smith told the commissioners.
The costs would include a lease for the space, construction costs to create the secure room, hiring an additional staff member, utilities and related operational expenses.
During the most recent discussions centering around the inebriant shelter, commissioners said they wanted to look at the numbers of inebriants being brought to the Holding Center to see if they could hold off on setting up the shelter. Part of the reason the shelter was provided was to reduce regional jail costs for the county since individuals who have no place to go are taken to the Holding Center then transported to the regional jail in Doddridge County.
"The main problem with the inebriant shelter is it must be separated from the homeless shelter, we have children in here, and we have to know, due to the way it's laid out, what the commission wants us to do," Smith said.
Smith said lease arrangements would need to be finalized, and construction, layout of the new kitchen, diningroom and new restrooms might be affected depending on whether there is an inebriant shelter and it's configuration.
The mission also houses a thrift shop and will have a recycling facility in-house that are mission fundraisers. The mission is starting a recovery program in early March which will be housed at the facility.
There are also plans to provide additional transitional apartments in the mission and at a facility to be constructed where the old Gustke Youth Shelter is located on Latrobe Street, just down from the mission. Grant funding is being sought for that project.
"The individuals coming into the PI shelter, where we have it planned, would have a separate entrance and would not have contact with the homeless shelter or community dining room," Smith said.
Smith said the shelter hopes to use some volunteer labor for the renovation process to create the enclosed room, but would still need electrical, plumbing and related utility work done that funds would need to be available to cover.
"We can also use some mission staff to assist with the PI shelter, but we would need an additional staff person for the PI shelter," Smith said.
The commissioners agreed to continue discussions with the mission on the inebriant shelter at another meeting.