Operations director starts at Latrobe Street Mission

PARKERSBURG – Jason Batten began his duties as the new Latrobe Street Mission director of operations on Oct. 28.

Batten, 27, will be overseeing operations at the homeless shelter under the supervision of executive director Shad Martin.

“I am really excited about this job. I’m really impressed with how much the mission here has been able to accomplish in the short time that it’s been operational. From what I’ve seen with other missions, Latrobe Street Mission is currently way ahead of the game in terms of stage of development. I think there is going to be a lot of good things happening here and I’m very excited to be a part of that,” Batten said.

One of the new projects for the shelter is a 12-month, in-house addiction recovery program, which is being developed. Individuals participating will also be encouraged to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and other related programs as they progress in recovery.

“We are also offering lifeskills classes and working with the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action Inc. with financial classes as well as Courage to Change and other agencies in the community to get people back on their feet, help them overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol. Over the last year since we’ve been open we’ve noticed drugs, alcohol tend to be at the root of a lot of the issues, as well as generational poverty,” Martin said.

The programs and services at the shelter are offered at no charge to recipients and the nonprofit agency has been serving the community since December 2012 surviving on donations, grants and proceeds from a thrift shop, Twice Is Good that is located in the shelter.

Batten said he was a student at West Virginia University when he felt a calling to service.

“I felt a real calling to work with the homeless population, a real strong desire to do what I could to assist in alleviating that social problem. A position opened up at the West Virginia Rescue Ministries in Fairmont. The position was men’s program director and I contacted them and got the job,” Batten said.

During his year at West Virginia Rescue Ministries, Batten said his work was similar to what he will be doing in Parkersburg.

“That includes putting together a more systemic approach to helping people attain and maintain sobriety,” Batten said. “We put together several different classes there, including lifeskills, spirituality, a Bible and theology class, relapse prevention, as well as a 12-step group. I stayed there a little over a year and helped to build that program up and that program is still operating. Then I was hired for this position,” Batten said.

Batten and his wife Kathy have relocated to Parkersburg. He has a regent’s bachelor of arts from WVU and said he’s working on a master of arts in professional counseling.

Martin said the shelter has served about 600 people since it opened nearly a year ago, averaging about 85 people a night. Check-in time at the shelter is 4-6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

“We are full pretty much every night,” Martin said. “We are also seeing some large families, we have one family of seven,” Martin said, noting the children really tug at the heart.

There were 13 children in the shelter one day at the homeless shelter. Batten said the children range in age from infants to teens.

“Homelessness cuts across all age groups, and Parkersburg for some reason has a relatively high incidence of homeless. Really, it’s a problem throughout the entire state. Recent statistics ranked West Virginia 34th in the nation for having high number of homeless children,” Batten said.

The mission also works closely with Westbrook Health Services and the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Services.

“We work quickly to try and get them into housing. We want to get the children into a stable home as quickly as possible,” Martin said, noting another new project should help address at least some of the transitional housing needs.

The mission has obtained the deed for the former Gustke Youth Shelter from the county and plans call for its demolition and the building of a new four-unit apartment complex in its place.

Martin said the mission has applied for an Affordable Housing Lending Grant for that project and they hope to hear on the status of that grant application in December.

The Latrobe Street youth shelter had been sitting vacant for more than eight years after the youth shelter was moved to another facility on St. Marys Avenue. Martin said architectural/engineering reports found it would be more cost-effective to raze the old structure instead of trying to convert it over.

Martin said the mission will be offering rooms “for adoption” by area groups and organizations to furnish and decorate.

“With the new year we will be having some new fundraisers too. Our goal is to get 1,000, $12-a-month donations and try to get 100 churches to donate between $150-$200 each. We are also going to try and get more businesses involved with the shelter,” Martin said. The executive director said $12 a day is the cost of housing/feeding one individual.

Another upcoming project will be a large kitchen for the shelter.

“We just signed our lease for the rest of the building two weeks ago so we now have the space we need. We have already purchased a lot of the kitchen equipment at auctions with funds we received. We are looking forward to that going in real soon,” Martin said.

The shelter’s current annual budget is approximately $250,000 to operate the mission, including providing housing, food, staff, utilities, insurance and other operational costs. The mission has 11 staff members, including Martin, Batten and Brenda Ridgeway, who is the associate director.

“We are always in need of funding, donations for the thrift shop and volunteers,” Martin said.

The Twice is Good Thrift Store hours of operation are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Donations can be dropped at the shop from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Martin said future plans also include a handicapped-accessible restroom, which will be built with the aid of a Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund grant.

“We just received that grant funding and that project will be starting soon. It will be downstairs,” Martin said.

To donate, volunteer or just learn more about Latrobe Street Mission call 304-893-9460, or email latrobestreetmissioncascable.net. The website is accessible online at www.latrobestreetmission.org.

Donations can be mailed to Latrobe Street Mission, P.O. Box 91, Parkersburg, W.Va., 26101.