By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor
NORTHFORK, W.Va. – Water and sewer troubles spurred a series of hard decisions between Children’s Home Society and the Department of Health and Human Services, ultimately leading to the closure of the Paul Miller Shelter.
Issues began with heavy rains, with the water runoff behind the shelter causing significant damage to the downstairs of the Annex Building, the administrative office of the shelter, said Marilyn Pearce of Children’s Home Society.
“There was mold found, not black mold luckily, in the annex after the water damage,” said Pearce. “Immediately after that, the administrative office staff moved to the community center.”
After the damage, a thorough assessment was performed, uncovering critical structural and drainage issues in the Annex Building. At this point the children were still staying in the nearby shelter, but on July 3rd, sewer issues and more water forced CHS to move the children to the Community Center as well, located at the old Dairy Queen in Northfork.
“After 38 years and a mountain shifting, that’s when our CEO and COO met with the DHHR and they had to make some pretty tough decisions,” said Pearce. “With the amount of damage to the buildings and the amount needed to fix it, it was deemed not feasible. It was not an issue of the Society’s inability to care for children that led to this decision.”
Despite the closure of the Paul Miller Shelter, Pearce says CHS is not finished with their work in McDowell County.
“We still have a Community Center and we’re very excited to get that building improved, up and ready,” said Pearce. “We have our WECAN program operating out of there now, and in September, we’ll be offering therapy services to impact McDowell County and the family unit. We are not leaving the County. We will be having community outreach because our goal remains the same, to benefit the children and families of McDowell County.”
CHS has also reached out to the McDowell County Commission and State Legislators for help finding a suitable location for another children’s shelter in the future.
“They all expressed desire to have a shelter and willingness to assist us with therapeutic services,” said Pearce. “We are committed to strengthening our family efforts and empowering people in McDowell County, just bear with us during this transition.”
The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is a private, non-profit child welfare organization founded in 1896. Comprehensive child welfare, behavioral health, social casework and advocacy services are provided to over 6,887 children each year from twelve primary locations throughout the state.
Some of their current programs are adoption, foster care, in-home and in-community services for children and families, emergency shelter care, respite, mediation, parent education training, prenatal and early childhood services, volunteer and mentoring, youth services, visitation and reunification, school based social work, day care and comprehensive assessment services.