FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — Different local organizations that serve the homeless are ready for the cold winter months that lie ahead.
Fairmont Homeless Coalition coordinator D.D. Meighen told Fairmont City Council Tuesday that the organization has been working to provide basic needs along with substance abuse recovery to the homeless during the past year.
“During this year our Homeless Coalition has been a cooperative partner to help develop and support numerous programs that have been a godsend to many,” Meighen said. “The Fairmont friendship center has served this year 1,911 persons, even though the center was closed for a few months.”
Meighen asked the council to support some of the Homeless Coalition’s programs, including one of its biggest endeavors, Blessings from the Basement, which is managed by the Fairmont Woman’s Club out of the Fleming Mansion.
“As Christmas nears and people receive new furniture and appliances, perhaps they will wish to donate their used items to the Blessings from the Basement program,” Meighen said. “Perhaps the city council could promote this idea, place a note in a bill send or assist in ways we might not know about.”
Meighen credited the Woman’s Club and its president, Marcella Yaremchuk, with providing more than 100 people with household items and necessities that have been donated to the club or collected by its members. He said the organization is always looking for donations of furniture, appliances and money to ensure it can continue providing people with what they need.
“Our Blessings from the Basement program, started through our Homeless Coalition, that in the year 2020 served 105 people in either permanent housing or apartments,” Meighen said. “So far seven households have been settled in apartments or homes which involved four families.”
Meighen also credited the Union Mission and Scott Place Shelter with providing a safe haven for people throughout the year.
He also commemorated the one-year anniversary of the opening of Friendship Fairmont, which is housed in the Marion County Courthouse Annex. The nonprofit, which was launched by Morgantown-based Milan Puskar Health Right, provides shelter during the day, as well as addiction counseling from peer recovery coaches and volunteers.
“We have seen as many as 30 people a day,” said Rochelle Satterfield, program manager of Friendship Fairmont. “A lot of people are coming in to get warm from the cold, and we are seeing a lot of people just trying to meet their basic needs. That’s why we are having the Warm and Cozy drive, because they just need to get out of the cold.”
Satterfield referenced the organization’s “Feeling Warm and Cozy for the Holidays” drive, which is collecting coats, hats, gloves, blankets and other winter clothing items to give to people in need. She said the donated items will remove one additional worry to those on the path to recovery.
“We have already given out 15 coats thanks to the United Way and other community organizations,” Satterfield said. “There is such a need to have layers of clothing whenever the temperatures drop. When all you have is the items on your back and they get wet, that poses a risk for health.”
Satterfield said in the past year, Friendship Fairmont has provided not only shelter and counseling services to people in need, but case workers and volunteers have helped people go through processes from getting a driver’s license, buying clothing and furniture, getting a credit card and finding jobs. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, these processes have been more difficult.
“There is still a very high demand to help them with services right now where they don’t have a consistent address,” Satterfield said. “Also just where to call; what is open right now. A lot of services have changed their hours where they don’t allow you to just come.”
Satterfield said that while there was some initial trepidation from council members about the location of Friendship Fairmont, community support for the organization has been good since it began, and she is happy to be part of removing the stigma from issues of addiction and homelessness.
“I think the biggest impact is just the support from the community,” Satterfield said. “Helping Fairmont and the area get rid of the stigma of homelessness and addiction. I hope to be able to provide additional groups to the community and more volunteer opportunities.”