Winters in Wheeling can be brutal. The cold weather puts many of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness at increased risk of illn
ess and even addiction relapse. Unfortunately, social distancing requirements related to the pandemic mean that the Neighborhood Center on 18th Street is not large enough to accommodate a warming center along with regular services.
Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) partnered with Fr. Wiley and the parishioners of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, who graciously opened their doors. CCWVa operates a warming center in their parish hall.
We are so grateful for this partnership! Now, people who have nowhere else to go are welcome from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Together and through collaboration with the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, we serve three meals each day.
“As the weather gets colder, people just don’t have somewhere they can comfortably be for the day,” said Mark Phillips, CCWVa Northern Regional Director. “There are places you can stay for an hour, like the library. But at our place, it doesn’t matter what you like look or what you’re bringing with you. We don’t ask questions. People can access resources and get a hot meal.”
One aspect of our ministry here stands out from many other warming centers in the state: Peer Recovery Coaches are available on site for anyone who needs support with substance use disorder (SUD). Peer Recovery Coaches have not only been through extensive training, they’ve also been through their own trials with SUD. They offer nonjudgmental companionship, a witness to what’s possible, and support for those seeking — and remaining in — recovery.
“At Catholic Charities, we get involved in both sides of recovery,” said Phillips. “We help people access recovery programs, and we support people who are coming home from those programs.” Phillips noted that with few halfway houses existing in the Wheeling area, it is essential for CCWVa to offer financial assistance for deposits and first month’s rent for people coming home to jobs.
The warming center at St. Alphonsus is truly a community effort. Besides our partnerships with the parish and the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, House of Hagar sends a Peer Recovery Coach to the warming center. And we always need helping hands. If you’re available to prepare meals, serve meals, make coffee, or simply spend time with people, please reach out to our Volunteer Coordinator, Keith Miller: (304) 232-7157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.