Clarksburg Mission

COVID-19 Accelerated This W.Va. Community’s Efforts To End Homelessness

May 7, 2020
Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

COVID-19 has forced Lou Ortenzio to assume a new role.

“My new job,” Ortenzio, executive director of the Clarksburg Mission in Clarksburg, West Virginia, said, “is getting here in the morning, finding people clustered around and having to tell them, ‘You’ve gotta go.’” 

The mission offers emergency shelter to up to 50 people a night and has a dorm for men and another for women and children, each of which can accommodate about 20. It also offers services and support for those in recovery from drug addiction. The facility went into lockdown in March to protect its residents from contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19.

Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

At 8:15 every weekday morning, the Clarksburg Mission’s staff circles up their chairs to share gratitude. It’s generally thankfulness for something that happened within the past 24 hours, big or small– help from dorm residents in moving furniture, a kind word from a colleague, a new day.

Desi Underwood, who serves as the mission’s ministry coordinator, said that in the past four weeks, as the cloud of COVID-19 has drawn nearer to her Appalachian community, spirits remain high; appreciation, deep. She said that throughout the mission, those with the resources to do so are pulling together impressively.