Charleston will open its emergency overnight shelter beginning Sunday as a cold snap is expected to hit the area.
The free shelter, which is operated by the city in collaboration with local nonprofits, is located on the West Side at the Salvation Army.
It will open at 9 p.m. Sunday for homeless men and women, as well as people who do not have adequate heat in their homes.
“We need to make sure that we are taking care of our citizens and making sure that we have a warm place to go for those that need it,” Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said Friday. “With predicted low temperatures, we wanted to give the public ample notice of the warming centers, to try to reach the largest amount of folks that we could.”
Temperatures are expected to drop to 19 degrees Sunday and Monday evenings, according to the National Weather Service.
This is the first time this winter the city will open its only emergency shelter under a new policy that is supposed to launch the free shelter when the windchill reaches 15 degrees. City officials did not return a request for comment as to why the shelter had not yet opened, despite low temperatures in November.
Kanawha City encampment to be cleared by police
The shelter opening this weekend comes days after the Charleston Police Department served an eviction notice to residents in a homeless encampment near Glen’s Towing, in Kanawha City.
“The notice came as a result of a complaint we received about the encampment. It was determined that the individuals were trespassing on state property and permission was given to [the] CPD for the encampment notice,” Lt. Autumn Davis, the police department’s public information officer, said.
Charleston’s homeless outreach specialist, Kevin Johnson, will try to help those living in the encampment find housing and necessary services, according to Davis.
She said officers complied with a Charleston policy that requires city employees to provide a 14-day written eviction notice to anyone living in a homeless encampment on public property. Residents will be required to vacate the encampment by Jan. 30.
The Charleston City Council passed the eviction notice policy in 2017 in the wake of a lawsuit against the city for its handling of the dismantling of an encampment known as Tent City, located along the Elk River. Sam Petsonk, who is running for attorney general, represented Tent City residents in the lawsuit while he was working for the nonprofit law firm Mountain State Justice.
The city settled the case in 2017. The settlement required the city to share a copy of the eviction notice with the Kanawha Valley Collective, a homeless-services provider, and Mountain State Justice.
“We have advised several entities, per our legal obligations ... in hopes that they will be able to assist those experiencing homelessness with finding the services they need to help them,” Davis said. “This will also allow them to observe the closure, if they wish.”
Warming shelter details
The warming shelter, which is run in collaboration with the United Way of Central West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley Collective, will be open from 9 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday, and again from 9 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday.
The shelter is located at 301 Tennessee Ave.
Volunteers will be present to hand out blankets and warm clothes.
Anyone interested in volunteering to staff the warming center may contact United Way of Central West Virginia President Margaret O’Neal, at 304-340-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.