BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The first week of the warming center at the Beckley Community United Methodist Church brought heat and shelter to those who may have no other option.

The shelter opens when the temperature is below 15 degrees and, when two winter storms hit the area in one week, access to heat can be life-saving.

“The potential is that someone could possibly freeze to death if they were out in that weather or experience frostbite or hypothermia so it is vital to have that resource available,” said Trena Dacal, Executive Director for the United Way of Southern West Virginia.

The cost of heat is expected to rise up to 50 percent this winter following a nationwide pattern of increasing costs and inflation. This can make access to heat when it is needed even more difficult for low-income families and Dacal said there is a greater need in the community for the warming shelter this winter as a result.

“It is available for anyone who needs to get out of the elements,” Dacal said. “Whether they are unsheltered or if they are living at home and having issues with their heating, or perhaps by a stroke of luck, their furnace has gone out, for whatever reason if they need to find a warm, safe, place that will be open.”

For Dacal, addressing the need for shelter in the community is a collaborative partnership between the City of Beckley, local first responders, and community leaders. She hopes the warming shelter continues to make a life-saving difference in Beckley.

“If even just one person was able to get out of the cold, we would call that a success, which is a bit of a misnomer, because we hate that people would need to utilize that type of resource, but we are very proud and happy to be able to collaborate with the folks that make it happen and have it available as a resource,” Dacal said.

The warming shelter will be open Friday, January 7, 2022, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. on Saturday January 8, 2022.