Low Temps Spurring High Freeze Shelter Occupancy

With temperatures dropping, more of the Wheeling area’s homeless are seeking shelter.

Youth Services System Inc. operates the Winter Freeze Shelter, located at the Hazel-Atlas Building, 87 15th St. in East Wheeling. The shelter, in its fifth year, runs from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. It opened Dec. 15 and will remain open nightly until March 15.

John Moses, YSS executive director, said the shelter’s meals and sleeping accommodations are only part of the services offered to guests. The community aspect is equally as important.

“The response of the Ohio Valley is remarkable. There’s a whole lot of goodwill in this community,” Moses said of local organizations and volunteers who contribute their efforts, whether through assistance, donations or emotional support.

Compared to last year’s average of 16 guests a night in December, Moses said, so far, this year’s 12-person average turnout is not unusual. He anticipates receiving more people as weather conditions worsen.

“When it starts getting cold, numbers pick up in January and February,” Moses said.

Although Moses would like to open the shelter earlier and debated creating two volunteer shifts, he said the current volunteer staff work throughout the night and don’t leave until 7:30 a.m.

“They are awake (up) to 11 hours,” Moses said. “We’re still looking for volunteers.”

Moses said some guests stay up all night to talk with volunteers. He added a lot of people end up in shelters because of personal problems, so conversation helps and encourages those who are having a difficult time.

“We all want to belong and connect with our fellow men,” Moses said. “Every one of these people have their own story.”

In addition to always welcoming more volunteers, the Freeze Shelter could particularly use donations of work boots, sleeping bags and tents. This year, Moses is planning ahead for conditions when the shelter closes in March. Those who sleep outside or near the creek need protection from elements such as rain.

“We are more than open to give anybody anything we have,” Moses said, welcoming even those who aren’t homeless, but still struggling, to stop by the shelter for items. “We have received so much. It is important that we all work together for the same cause.”

Moses extended his thanks to Northwood Health Systems, Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless, Catholic Charities, Soup Kitchen, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, Christian Fellowship Foundation, Augusta and Thelma Hoffman Foundation, Hess Family Foundation, Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers, Williams Lea, Community Foundation donor advised fund, churches and “good people in the community.”