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YSS, Local Agencies Bridge Gap in Homeless Shelter Service

WHEELING — As temperatures dipped into the teens and snow blanketed the Ohio Valley this week, a local church and several nonprofit agencies combined efforts to provide a temporary shelter between the operating hours of other homeless shelters.

The interim shelter is located on the first floor of Youth Service System Inc., 87 15th St., and is open on the coldest days between 3:30 p.m., when daytime shelters close, and 8:30 p.m., when the YSS Winter Freeze Shelter at the former Hillcrest facility opens.

The issue was exacerbated this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a normal year, agencies and public spaces would be open during some of those hours.

The shelter is staffed by volunteers from the Vineyard Church, Street MOMs, HoH Share and YSS.

“It was actually our Winter Freeze Shelter guests who approached us” about using YSS, said Kate Marshall, a YSS Winter Freeze Shelter employee and HoH Share executive director. Several of the guests said they would volunteer to help.

YSS CEO John Moses offered them the first-floor space that formerly housed the Living Word Church. Since October, that space has been used by the Vineyard Church to hold services on Wednesdays and Sundays. The services are primarily geared to the homeless population. Street MOMs co-founder Susan Brossman, also affiliated with the Vineyard, has been instrumental in organizing the church services.

The location is ideal because it is familiar to many who need it, and it also provides them the opportunity to request needed items from the YSS Sophie Moses Free Store.

The shelter visitors are appreciative of the new stopgap measure to keep them warm and safe. Several of them volunteer to clean; others volunteer as hall monitors and greeters.

David*, who stays at the Northwood Health Systems shelter at night, was mopping the floors and wiping down surfaces in the church space Thursday morning.

“Everyone’s really appreciative and everything,” David said. “It’s a big thing what they do for the people.” He said he helps out because “I think it’s the right thing to do. They do so much for us, I want to give something back to them.”

The space is open when the temperature or wind chill is below 20 degrees F and/or it is actively snowing. Brossman pointed out it’s a temporary fix.

“It’s a good start for very cold and snowy days, but there are still times our friends are out four to five hours a day,” Brossman said. “Our discussions are ongoing on how to best serve this population.”

* Last name withheld upon request.

 

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More information — YSS in the News: WTRF story