Morgantown officials work to improve warming shelter operations

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This is the first year for a warming shelter at the former Ramada Inn location on Scott Avenue just outside of Morgantown.

Hazel’s House of Hope is now operating 24-hours a day for anyone that needs shelter.

Morgantown officials agreed earlier in the year to finance the operation not to exceed $30,000 while the Monongalia County Commission has agreed to add $10,000.

Tom Bloom

Despite regular Mountain Line service to the Scott Avenue location, officials have faced some questions about using a location outside the city. Additional criticism was levied recently from Morgantown Councilman Brian Butcher about proper staffing, availability and the possibility of some homeless people being banned due safety concerns for the others people who use the shelter.

Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom said some of the criticism is unfounded.

“There is a difference between people asking questions and voicing legitimate concerns compared to those individuals trying to find fault where there is none,” Bloom said. “It is imperative the city and county are clear with our messaging and have the facts before comments are taken out of context.”

Morgantown Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble said a meeting was held recently to work operational problems out and set expectations for the future. The key issue worked out was to begin 24-hour a day operations, not based on weather conditions.

“We really worked some things out I thought that people had been asking for from the cold weather shelter for years,” Trumble said.

A ban list has been used in the past to protect volunteers and others.  During the meeting, Trumble said the Bartlett House agreed to wipe the ban list clean for the use of Hazel’s House of Hope.

“It was made with the expectation that any kind of violation from any of these folks moving forward could result in another ban,” Trumble said. “But, the Bartlett House was willing to give them a second chance.”

Officials said confusion results when the shelter operations are determined by temperature. With that in mind, the doors will be open to anyone no matter the time of day or weather conditions.

Danielle Trumble

“During the winter months people will be able to be there 24-hours a day regardless of the temperature or weather outside,” Trumble said. “I think that’s the biggest change that was made and what people were asking for.”

According to Bloom, the Salvation Army, United Way, Bartlett House and volunteers are in regular contact to ensure the shelter is run effectively for the community.

“The other thing I’m very pleased with is now the group that’s running Hazel’s House of Hope are meeting weekly with the groups to resolve the issues,” Bloom said. “That was something that wasn’t done before.”

Residents that would like to volunteer at Hazel’s House of Hope are asked to contact the United Way of Monongalia and Preston counties at 304-296-7525.

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