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Parkersburg shelter to expect payment or work

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — People staying at the Latrobe Street Mission Homeless and Recovery Center will be asked to contribute to the shelter and services they receive there, starting in February.

Executive director Steve Clay said that, as of Feb. 1, any individual or family spending the night at the shelter will be expected to pay $5 or, if they cannot, do work at the shelter.

“If they don’t have a job, they don’t have an income of any kind, they’re going to be required to work 24 hours (per week) at the mission,” Clay said.

That could include cleaning, maintenance, laundry and general housekeeping, Clay said.

If someone is unable to work due to a disability, other arrangements will be made.

“Nobody has to leave over this,” Clay said. “Nobody will be put out in the cold.”

While he acknowledged that the contributions will help with finances, it is also part of the recovery aspect of the mission. Clay is modeling the program after one that’s been in place as a mission program in Clarksburg for more than 15 years.

There, people staying at the shelter are expected to provide 20 hours of service a week, said Chris Mullett, executive director of the Clarksburg Mission.

“It’s a way for them to have the dignity of contributing to their living,” he said. “In general, I think it’s damaging to the human spirit to simply be constantly on the receiving end of things.”

That situation creates an imbalance of power that makes a real relationship impossible, Mullett said.

“Relationships have the ability to alter someone’s behavior,” he said.

As people staying in the mission’s dormitories work alongside staff and volunteers, they become more like colleagues and friends, he said.

Clay presented the idea to the Latrobe Street Mission board recently and has their support, said Greg Smith, board president.

“It is not about finances. It’s about the recovery portion of our mission,” he said. “If you’re staying, you’re working, you’re providing something back to the program.”

Clay said some people staying at the mission may not have a roof over their head for one reason or another but are working and making enough money to pay the $5-a-night fee.

Reaction to the proposal has generally been favorable among those staying at the mission, Clay said.

“I’ve got a lot of positive response,” he said.

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