The Winter Freeze Shelter at Youth Services System, 87 15th St., will close for the 2019-20 season after Sunday, March 15. More than 250 individuals were served in the 2019-20 season, bringing the 11-year total to more than 1,500.
Supported solely by donations from the community, YSS has opened its administrative office building every winter night since 2009. Trained staff provide food, fellowship, shelter and assistance to men and women experiencing homelessness.
The primary goal is to prevent serious illness and death from exposure, but YSS also works to find housing solutions for its shelter guests when possible throughout the season. With March 15 right around the corner, it’s crunch time to help them find safe solutions.
“In some cases, the solution is as simple and inexpensive as a bus ticket to a family member’s home in another city or state. Often it’s more complicated than that,” CEO John Moses said.
“Some of our folks are working during the day and sleeping here at night, saving money to get a roof over their heads. A few have enough for their first month’s rent but can’t swing the rent deposit or utility deposits necessary to get the heat or electric turned on,” Moses said.
Donations from private foundations, businesses, churches and individuals help cover these costs throughout the shelter season. Those funds are nearly depleted, however, and YSS is again appealing to the community.
“This community has proven to me time after time that they share our conviction to help their brothers and sisters in need. I have faith they will continue to put their compassion into action,” Moses said.
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Monetary donations also are needed to continue providing temporary emergency housing for women and families, Moses said. After the Salvation Army on 16th Street changed its policy last fall to serve men only, excluding women and families, Moses reached out to local foundations and businesses for support. The result: the nonprofit agency was able to open the Winter Freeze Shelter one month early to serve women, and it also leased three apartments — two in East Wheeling and one on Wheeling Island — as temporary emergency housing for families. In addition, donations have been used to pay a discounted rate for rooms at Wheeling Inn for families in need of emergency shelter.
For the shelter guests without permanent housing options, they may find temporary housing at one of the other local emergency shelters, such as Northwood Health Systems or the Salvation Army in Wheeling (men only) or Bellaire, which serves men, women and families. For those who have nowhere to go, YSS is seeking donations of tents, sleeping bags, tarps and other items to keep them out of the elements. A Winter Freeze Shelter Spring Wish List has been created on Amazon. Monetary donations can be mailed to YSS, 87 15th St., Wheeling, WV 26003. Donations also can be made online under the donate tab or through the YSS Facebook page.