Overnight Shelter group photo

Catholic Charities Converts Ballroom to Overnight Winter Freeze Shelter

Several individuals and organizations have spent months collaborating to find a space to provide temporary overnight shelter for adults experiencing homelessness this winter in the city of Wheeling.

That shelter has finally been found. Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) will convert the grand ballroom at its administrative office into a temporary shelter.

“The city of Wheeling is blessed by a community who shows tremendous mercy, love and compassion,” said Beth Zarate, CCWVa Chief Executive Officer and President. “As winter and cold weather approaches, providing warmth, nourishment, rest and safety for our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness is our privilege.”

In addition to providing the space in the Diocesan-owned property, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston donated $10,000 for shelter operations.

“’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36) These words from Christ in Matthew’s Gospel serve as a roadmap for how we should treat our brothers and sisters,” said Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan, Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “We are called to serve others, especially the less fortunate.”

Community partners gather to finalize plans for an overnight shelter for the winter of 2022-2023

Set to open Thursday, December 15, the temporary shelter is designed to keep individuals warm during the upcoming winter. The winter shelter will operate from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. through mid-March or longer, depending on weather conditions.

“Winter is upon us and there is great urgency in sheltering those who are living in tents,” said Melissa Adams, City of Wheeling Homeless Liaison. “We are in the process of preparing the Catholic Charities space to welcome up to 50 individuals this winter season.”

Operations will fall under the newly created 501c3 nonprofit the LIFE HUB. The LIFE HUB was created as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, a program of the Wheeling Housing Authority partnering with the City of Wheeling. The goal of the LIFE HUB is to acquire and operate a spacious shelter year-round for homeless adults and families. The program will also provide a variety of services under one roof to strategically and compassionately help the homeless successfully and efficiently navigate through a variety of systems that include housing, employment, education, health and mental health, to ensure a rapid response to basic emergent needs.

“We needed to stabilize the upcoming winter first. Now that the project is moving forward in the Catholic Charities building, we can begin long-term planning of the LIFE HUB in the very near future,” explained Joyce Wolen, Wheeling Housing Authority Executive Director. “Other communities have adopted and implemented this model with exciting success. The key is collaboration and cooperation with the many resources in the community. We are looking forward to inviting to the table all organizations serving the homeless in our area for planning meetings,” said Wolen.

From left, Joyce Wolen, John Moses, George Smoulder, Melissa Adams, Mark Phillips, Beth Zarate

Retired Youth Services System Chief Executive Officer John Moses has joined the overnight shelter project in a temporary role to oversee day-to-day operations for the upcoming winter. Moses is being assisted by a team of familiar faces who have worked in the former Winter Freeze Shelter. He is also joined by another community familiar face – former Catholic Charities Executive Director and retired United Way Director, Deacon George Smoulder.

“We are grateful for all of the individuals, organizations, foundations and faith-based community that have supported the winter shelter efforts through financial and in-kind gifts over the last several years,” said John Moses. “We thank them for their continued support this year. The winter shelter would not happen without it.”

“I am proud of the work of the Diocese, CCWVa and local civic leaders to create this space so that our homeless community can not only be safe during the harsh winter months, but also receive other vital services they need to help them get back on their feet,” said Bishop Brennan. “I especially thank Beth Zarate, Chief Executive Officer of CCWVa, and Mark Phillips, Chief Operating Officer of CCWVa, for taking the initiative in finding a solution to shelter the homeless. This collaboration is a testament to the great work that can be accomplished when many organizations band together to ensure the dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Donations are needed for the temporary winter shelter. Checks may be made out to the LIFE HUB and mailed to P.O. Box 2089; Wheeling, WV 26003. A temporary website landing page will be launched in the next couple of weeks to take online donations as well at lifehubwv.org. Questions may be directed to the following: Melissa Adams at 304-234-3610 or madams@wheelingwv.gov; John Moses at 304-215-8904 or johnmoses@comcast.net; Joyce Wolen at 304-639-8429 or joyce@wheelingwv-pha.org.

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