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Pulaski’s warming station makes changes to help the homeless and adhere to COVID guidelines

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:08 AM EST
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PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ) - In Pulaski, organizers of a warming center are facing their biggest challenge yet: figuring out how to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines and house those who need shelter.

But those with the warming station in Pulaski said they have found a way to help those who need it most, all while keeping everyone safe from COVID.

“It would just break my heart if somebody called me and said, ‘Charlie, somebody froze to death least night because they had nowhere to stay,’” said Pastor Charlie Barbettini, the director of the warming station.

That’s why Pastor Barbettini makes sure a light and sign are out every night at 6 in the winter.

“And people have grown to know in Pulaski, and they know that when the temperature is cold, they have a place to go to and be warm,” said Barbettini.

It is a warming station. But with the pandemic, those who run it had to change the program and cut their occupancy in half. This season, guests will be housed in the Budget Inn in Pulaski, with two guests per room in order to maintain social distancing.

“All summer long we knew that we would have changes to make with COVID-19 and in the past summers I never had as many calls as I had this year with people being homeless,” said Barbettini.

The director said seeing more people without a home, and growing concerns over COVID-19, they did not know how or if they would have enough resources to help. But thanks to the community and federal Cares Act funds, things began to turn around.

“And we felt like he was saying go with that this year, take care of the people and reach out to them the best you can,” said Barbettini.

The center received $10,000 to house around four homeless people, on a rotating basis every night this winter.

“They would be fed, and they would have a shower right there in the room to take care of themselves.”

Even though they can only take in a smaller number of people, Barbettini saids he is happy they can still meet the needs of some.

Guests will continue to arrive at the warming station 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.

Guests will have to have their temperature and ID checked. If the guest has no fever, they will receive a copy of their ID and an admission form to take to a nearby motel for admission, along with a $10 meal card to a nearby restaurant.

Barbettini asks anyone who has donated hot meals before, please consider donating funds for $10 food or gift cards from Wendy’s, Hardee’s or McDonalds’s.

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