The need for a new homeless shelter

By Beth Sergent -

POINT PLEASANT — Mason County is not immune to homelessness.

Last week, John Machir, representing the Mason County Homeless Shelter, visited the Mason County Commission to ask if one of the commissioners would serve on an advisory board for the shelter.

Machir explained the board would be comprised of local officials, law enforcement and various local citizens from across the county because though the shelter is located in Point Pleasant, it serves the entire county. The hope is this board can assist in efforts to address any issues that come up at the shelter and provide guidance where needed.

One issue is the actual shelter space. Machir said the shelter, which is housed in a building that is nearly 100 years old, only has the capacity to hold 13 people. Due to the building’s age, constant fixes and updates are required so as not to lose any program revenue, which of course costs additional money. Machir said the goal at this time is to secure property behind the shelter, which sits on the corner of 12th and Hogg streets, and build a new one with a capacity to serve 24 clients. The old shelter would then be torn down.

Having a diverse board representing the community, with members who have an understanding of building codes and funding, should help the shelter staff make “connections” and “make that (a new shelter) a reality,” said Machir.

Machir also said many people don’t realize the shelter staff run a soup kitchen, which provides daily meals. Staff also give out food boxes in emergency cases if the client has an eligibility slip from the Department of Health and Human Resources. The shelter works with the Huntington Food Bank and receives USDA commodities.

At the time he met with commissioners, Machir said the shelter was at capacity. Unfortunately, when the shelter is at capacity, people have to be turned away, he told the commission. There is no other shelter to send them to, Machir added, which underscored the need for a larger shelter.

Commissioner Tracy Doolittle said she would join the shelter board to represent the commission, with Commissioners Sam Nibert and Rick Handley attending in the event of her absence.

By Beth Sergent

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.