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Dec 22, 2023

Our conversation for United Way Day with United Way Northern Shenandoah Valley's CEO, Kaycee Childress, included Robyn Miller (Executive Director) and Cindee Steele (Communications & Community Outreach Coordinator) with WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter) to talk about their organization.

WATTS is a low-barrier shelter, meaning they will take ANYONE who is homeless, regardless of sobriety or criminal background.  For this reason, the shelter is for ADULTS ONLY and all volunteers must be at least 18 YEARS OF AGE. The shelter can house up to 35 guests each night on cots that are cleaned and moved each week to the next host location (typically local churches.)  Many people come in to volunteer their time, efforts, and various talents to guests, providing meals, necessities, fellowship, haircuts, music therapy, and medical services, just to name a few.

We discussed a range of issues related to homelessness, including the challenges faced by homeless individuals, the importance of providing a support system and services, and the funding of these services. We also touched on the issue of housing affordability, particularly for the ALICE population, and the efforts of organizations to address these issues through fundraising and collaboration.

Robyn explained the operations of the Market Street United Methodist Church warming center and the evening shelter. The warming center is located at Market Street and is open Monday - Saturday from 7am to 2pm, and Sundays from noon to 6pm, and is available to anyone.

The evening shelter, rotates between different churches in Winchester, Frederick County, and Clarke County. People can arrive between 6pm and 7pm (or catch the bus at 21 W. Cecil Street) and their spot is guaranteed as long as they return. Meals for the shelter are provided by local churches. Robyn also mentioned that donations of certain items, such as underwear, socks, and coffee are always welcome for the shelter's guests.

We discussed the increasing homelessness problem in our area, highlighting WATTS' efforts to serve the needs of over 300 people last season. Robyn noted their expansion of the warming center also exposed them to those who were previously not served. Kaycee & Robyn emphasized the influx of newly homeless individuals, who are local and have lost their housing for various reasons.

Before we wrapped up our conversation, Cindee & Robyn shared details for their "Coldest Night of the Year" fundraising event scheduled for February 24, 2024, which aims to raise funds and awareness about homelessness by simulating harsh winter conditions. The event includes a walk (through a portion of the MSV trails and downtown Winchester) and a simple soup kitchen. They set a goal to make the event the most attended one in the country - with over 400 participants in the previous year -  they're aiming for 700 this year. You can register and get more details here:

Robyn also explained that it takes over 3000 volunteers to operate their shelter and warming center each season and encouraged listeners to consider giving of their time. Learn more about their needs, find their Amazon Wish List, and/or make a donation on their website: and follow them on Facebook.