WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — With lows in the single digits all week, the cold could be deadly for people living on the streets. Which makes the recent addition of a cold-weather shelter at the Washington City Mission in downtown Washington so timely for those who have nowhere else to go.
“They can get frostbite rather quickly and not even know what’s going on, so it’s extremely important to be able to get to shelters like ours,” said Dean Gartland, President & CEO of the mission.
The mission has always had a dorm for those men who live there and participate in the mission’s substance abuse counseling and job training programs. But in the past, those who needed emergency shelter slept on the floor in the building’s chapel.
After a fire two and a half years ago, the mission was able to rebuild with more space, clearing room for 12 beds set aside for shorter stays.
“We have a lot more space to house a lot more people, for those who are just coming in overnight just to get out of the cold,” said Gartland.
The mission is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s located on West Wheeling Street, across from the county jail.
Gartland says people can not only get a warm bed, but also a hot meal, coats, hats and gloves to take with them, even medical care if they need it.
And while Gartland and his staff feel blessed to be able to provide emergency shelter during this period of dangerous cold, they also hope people come back and participate in the mission’s programs that, he says, are helping turn lives around.
“I know that the cold does drive people into shelters, but with the opioid epidemic that’s going on in our communities we’ve been seeing more people coming in who are addicted to heroin,” said Gartland. “While they’re here getting warm and taking care of their immediate needs they’re also finding recovery and getting involved in our programs which is a huge positive.”