WARM gears up for cold weather, secures hosts for cold weather shelter

Now that they have the shelter aspect covered, they’ll need help with labor and money.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 6:21 PM EST
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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) - Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry, a no-barrier cold weather shelter also known as WARM, has had a busy few weeks getting their schedules sorted.

They’ve been talking to churches about hosting the shelter for one week at a time. This year, they plan to operate from the week of Thanksgiving until the week of Easter.

Acting Executive Director Brian Edwards said this is their first year back to congregate housing settings. The COVID-19 pandemic put them on a two-year hiatus, and many shelters transitioned to non-congregate settings.

The pandemic changed a lot for WARM.

“There’s been a lot of changes within the community over the past few years, with the impact of covid, just with different congregations switching around, new ministers coming in, new outreach managers, so trying to rebuild those connections over the last three years of not having them, that’s been part of the process of getting the cold weather shelter running again,” said Cold Weather Shelter Manager Hunter McMillon.

Up until September, WARM ran two emergency shelters in Waynesboro and Verona.

“We had to shut down our emergency shelters when the CARES Act money ran out so we were kind of left scrambling. We basically had about six weeks to pull this all together, and the closer we got the more nervous we got that it wasn’t going to happen. We knew if we started we were going to go to the end,” said Edwards.

There were many people living in those non-congregate housing options. When funding went away, they tried to find places for them to go.

“Some of those folks were able to be housed at valley mission, some were able to find transitional housing, but unfortunately some resorted to living in the elements. We know there are probably about 35 to 40 individuals here in Waynesboro in this area who are living in the elements,” said Edwards.

Edwards said many of their guests work, but with rising housing costs, that’s not enough.

“It’s not that they are not able to work or refusing to work, but they just can’t sustain rent on what they’re getting paid in the market now,” he said. “There are some resources, but there’s just not enough out there. That’s why people are resorting to living outdoors, to living in tents, living in cars.”

Now that they have the shelter aspect covered, they’ll need help with labor like cooking, and they’ll need funds. Edwards estimated the season will cost them around $70,000 in administrative costs.

To learn more about how you can contribute, visit their website or their Facebook page.

For previous coverage on housing in the Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro area, click the link below:

Augusta County housing woes latest: non-congregate housing coming to an end