Warming Station makes changes to deal with COVID-19

The Warming Station is a very important program in Pulaski that helps the homeless and those down on their luck. Even other established agencies and organizations have come to call on the Warming Station during the winter when they encounter people in need of a place to sleep when the temperature is 40 degrees and below at 6 p.m.

Since its founding, the program has faced many challenges. Now it faces another in the form of COVID-19. Because of the virus, the whole landscape of caring for the homeless changes.

The Warming Station has had to alter its program in order to comply with social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines. The biggest change involves housing for those seeking shelter at the Warming Station.

This winter, homeless people seeking shelter won’t be able to spend the night at the Warming Station facility on Washington Avenue in Pulaski. Instead, they will be housed for the night in a local motel, and food will come in the form of $10 restaurant gift cards rather than from churches and caring individuals.

Pastor Charlie Barbettini, Director of the Warming Station, estimates the ministry will need $10,000 in order to house and feed guests this season, based on the number of guests housed last season and the anticipated operational costs to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

“God has blessed us with a $5,000 grant from the Pulaski County Non-Profit Recovery Program and we have also received a similar grant for $5,000 from the Town of Pulaski’s Non-Profit Recovery Program. We are so very thankful to the county and town in helping us meet our needs this season,” said Barbettini with a big smile.

Both grants come from federal CARES Act funds in response to COVID-19.

With the grant funds, Barbettini said the ministry will be able to serve four individuals per night on a rotating basis.

“We strongly believe that God would have us do everything possible to take care of the homeless and meet as many needs as possible,” he added.

While the grants will help the ministry pay additional costs of operation incurred this winter, Barbettini said regular contributions are still needed and greatly appreciated.

“We (the Warming Station Board of Directors) believe the changes we have implemented this season will keep  guests safe and well,” said Barbettini.

This season, guests will be housed in the Budget Inn in Pulaski, with two guests per room in order to maintain social distancing.

“The dormitory type of sleeping we use under normal circumstances would keep us from complying with COVID rules,” said Barbettini.

With that being the new normal, large, unexpected expenses will be incurred in motel room fees and meal cards.

“We continue to ask churches and individuals to support us during the season, but in a different way,” said Barbettini.

Meals prepared in the homes of others are no longer an option this year. Barbettini asks that any church or individual who has previously donated hot meals to please consider donating funds for $10 food cards from Wendy’s, Hardee’s or McDonalds’s to provide meals for guests.

“When making a monetary donation, please make a note of what the money is being donated for,” Barbettini asked. He explained the costs facing the Warming Station this season are in addition to their regular costs of operation.

“We still have rent and utilities to pay on the apartments that we use for the program regularly,” said Barbettini, noting the ministry has taken cost cutting measures to operate the apartments during this time as cost effectively as possible, and will continue to do whatever they can to cut costs and be good stewards of their funds.

“At the present time we have a good situation for men and women needing our services, and we do not want to lose the accommodations that have worked so well for the program in the past,” added Barbettini.

During this winter season, the Warming Station has engaged an  attendant for the season and will use one of the two apartments as its base of the operation.

The program will operate as follows.

  • Guests will continue to arrive at the Warming Station located at 223 N. Washington Ave. behind Taking It To The Streets Ministries (rear entrance) between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights when the temperature is 40 degrees or lower at 6 p.m.
  • The attendant will take the temperature of each guest and will secure identification. Guests MUST have an ID.

If the guest has no temperature, they will receive a copy of their ID and an admission form to take to the Budget Inn for admission, along with a $10 meal gift cards to Wendy’s, Hardee’s or McDonalds’s.

For more information contact Pastor Charlie Barbettini at 276-620-4293. If you would like to make a donation please send it to: Taking It To The Streets/Warming Station, 223 N. Washington Ave., Pulaski VA 24301.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” NKJV