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WATTS Unveils New “Cooling Center” in Winchester to Help Homeless Beat the Heat

A photo of a woman and man sitting at a table talking for a radio show.
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Robyn Miller, Executive Director of the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter, commonly known as WATTS.
To tackle the challenges faced by the homeless community during the intense summer heat, the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter (WATTS) has opened a new “Cooling Center.”  This initiative provides a safe, air-conditioned haven for those seeking a momentary escape from the scorching temperatures.  Located at Market Street United Methodist Church on 131 S. Cameron Street, the center is operational every day from noon to 5 pm.  The only exception is Thursdays when the center opens an hour earlier at 11 am and closes at 4 pm.  Beyond a cooler environment, the center also offers snacks, refreshing drinks, and occasional lunches, thanks to the dedication of local volunteers.  Robyn shed light on the establishment’s history and motivation for the Cooling Center.
WATTS’ roots trace back to a tragic incident 2008 when a homeless man lost his life to the freezing Winchester winter.  Faith-based leaders then congregated to conceive a solution that would prevent such incidents in the future.  The answer lay in their unused church buildings, which were equipped with facilities like kitchens and bathrooms.  This spark gave birth to WATTS in November 2009, with several churches offering their premises rotationally to house and feed the homeless during winter nights.  The endeavor saw immense success due to the collective effort of the community.  School bus drivers volunteered transport services, while others engaged in activities with the shelter guests or provided various services like haircuts and medical consultations.  WATTS’ initial vision has endured and expanded over the years, with the organization now able to accommodate up to 35 guests every night during winter.  However, the plight of the homeless community during summers was evident, thus leading to the inception of the Cooling Center.
Community members looking to lend a helping hand can volunteer at the Cooling Center. Tasks involve assisting managers with food and game sessions and ensuring guests’ comfort.  For those concerned about time constraints, even a short duration of assistance is appreciated.  It’s pertinent to note, however, that all volunteers should be above 18 years of age.
While the Cooling Center addresses an immediate need, WATTS has broader ambitions.  Their mission, as articulated in October 2022, pivots towards breaking the cyclical nature of homelessness.  By offering individuals the tools and resources needed to re-enter the workforce, WATTS envisions a future where everyone can be self-reliant and sheltered, regardless of circumstances.
For more information or to get involved, visit the WATTS website at


Via Royal Examiner.
Original article:

WATTS walk to help Winchester area’s homeless population

A photo of a woman and daughter dressed warm, walking away from the camera on a downtown pedestrian mall lined with bricks and historic buildings.

It’s winter. You go outside, you get cold, you come inside, you get warm. Simple, right?

Not if you’re homeless. In the winter, many homeless people go out in the cold and stay there for hours, days, even weeks.

Area residents now have an opportunity to commiserate with the plight of the homeless while also making sure the area’s most disadvantaged residents always have a warm, safe place to go during the day or night. On Feb. 25, the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program is hosting its first Coldest Night of the Year Walk to support its year-round operations.

“It’s an international walk that raises funds for organizations that help the hurt, the hungry and the homeless,” WATTS Executive Director Robyn Miller said on Tuesday. “It also raises awareness that every place has a problem with homelessness. There’s always someone homeless somewhere.”

The Coldest Night of the Year Walk originated in 2011 in Toronto, Canada, and since then has raised more than $57 million to help the homeless populations of 166 Canadian communities. The event expanded into the United States last year, and WATTS will be participating in it for the first time next weekend.

“We’re very excited,” Miller said. “We’re closing in on 200 walkers. We would love to hit 300 because that’s when I need a police escort.”

Anyone who wants to join the walk, scheduled to step off at 5 p.m. Feb. 25, will have the option to choose a 2-kilometer or 5-kilometer route, both of which start at Braddock Street United Methodist Church at 115 Wolfe St. in Winchester. Participants are encouraged to line up financial sponsorships or donate money to help WATTS, but contributions are not required. However, anyone who raises $150 or more will receive a free Coldest Night of the Year beanie (or, as it’s called in Canada, toque).

“It’s open to everybody — children, families, businesses, whoever would like to come,” Miller said.

Children 12 and under must be accompanied on the walk by a parent or guardian, and the only pets that will be allowed are approved and trained service animals.

Along with raising money for WATTS, walk participants will learn what it’s like to be homeless in Winchester. Be prepared, though, because few things in life are more difficult than being displaced, desperate and disregarded.

“They have to walk all the time because they have no place to go,” Miller said, adding that the majority of stores and public buildings in Winchester do not want homeless people in or near their facilities.

In addition to being unwelcome, homeless people are often hungry and have no other option but to seek free meals from local churches or nonprofit agencies like Winchester Rescue Mission or the Salvation Army of Winchester. Coldest Night of the Year walkers will also get a free meal after completing the event, but don’t expect beef Wellington and risotto.

“It will end at Braddock Street United Methodist Church, where New Life Christian Church will be hosting a soup kitchen,” Miller said. “It will be a very simple meal of soup and bread.”

Miller said it’s important to feel compassion for the homeless.

“There are more homeless people out there than people realize,” she said. “You have the chronic homeless — people who have been homeless for a long time or the person holding a sign. You have the transitional — people that come in and out of homelessness. You have people that have had a traumatic event — a fire, a death in the family, a disability, a job loss — and can’t afford rent anymore. And then there are the hidden homeless — people who are living in their cars or a storage unit — who, if they lose their [living] arrangements, have no other place to go.

“You are probably standing next to somebody at [a store] who is homeless, and up to 30% of those people are children,” Miller said.

To register for the Coldest Night of the Year Walk or learn more about the event, visit

WATTS launched in 2009 as a means to convert local churches into temporary shelters that provide overnight accommodations for the homeless during the winter months. Each participating church offers free meals and a place to sleep for one week, then another church picks up the mantle the following week.

In 2020, WATTS added a daytime warming center where people can escape the cold, get snacks and water, use a restroom and have other basic needs met. That was followed in the summer of 2021 with the opening of a daytime cooling center that offered the same amenities during hot weather. Both centers are located at Market Street United Methodist Church at 131 S. Cameron St. in downtown Winchester.

WATTS also has a transition support team that formed in late 2021 and works year-round to help displaced people obtain birth certificates and identification, apply for jobs, submit forms for housing assistance, get information about drug and alcohol rehab programs and seek Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP benefits.

By BRIAN BREHM The Winchester Star

— Contact Brian Brehm at


Via Winchester Star

Original article:

A photo of a woman standing posed in a church kitchen.
Robyn Miller, executive director of the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter, stands inside the kitchen at Market Street United Methodist Church in Winchester, where WATTS offers a daytime warming center for homeless people. The nonprofit will host a Coldest Night of the Year Walk on Feb. 25, 2023 to support its year-round efforts to feed, shelter and support the displaced.

WATTS expands mission to help the homeless, unveils new logo

The Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) organization has expanded its mission to further help people experiencing homelessness in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

At its annual fundraising dinner on Saturday, the nonprofit revealed its new mission statement:

“WATTS’s mission is to break the cycle of homelessness one life at a time. We empower individuals to re-enter the workforce and connect individuals to the resources needed to be as self-sufficient as possible while providing a safe temporary shelter during extreme weather.”

Along with the new mission statement comes a new logo. The previous image of a person being sheltered by a pair of hands has been updated to include more color and to show those hands holding a heart.

WATTS Executive Director Robyn Miller said the changes were made to reflect how the Winchester-based organization has grown from offering overnight shelter during the winter months to becoming a year-round operation with services to help homeless individuals find jobs and permanent housing.

“We’re trying to give them as many options as possible to find help out of homelessness,” Miller said. “There are so many barriers preventing them from being housed and making them successful once they’re in housing.”

WATTS launched in 2009 as a means to convert local churches into temporary shelters that provide overnight accommodations for the homeless during the winter months. Each participating church offers free meals and a place to sleep for one week, then another church picks up the mantle the following week.

In 2020, WATTS added a daytime warming center where people can escape the cold, get snacks and water, use a restroom and have other basic needs met. That was followed in the summer of 2021 with the opening of a daytime cooling center that offered the same amenities during hot weather. Both centers are located at Market Street United Methodist Church, 131 S. Cameron St., in downtown Winchester.

WATTS’s most recent addition is a three-person transition support staff that formed in late 2021 to work year-round helping displaced people obtain birth certificates and identification, apply for jobs, submit forms for housing assistance, get information about drug and alcohol rehab programs and seek Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP benefits.

“We have a guest that we just helped get into housing,” Miller said. “And we keep checking on him because it’s really difficult to go from homeless to housing and stay there and be successful.”

Miller said the issues that lead to people becoming homeless, such as mental health challenges, don’t go away once they get a house or apartment. That’s why WATTS’s transition team offers ongoing support to newly housed individuals until they’re able to be completely independent.

“Sometimes it’s super simple, like getting somebody a pair of ear buds so they can stay calm and stay inside,” Miller said. “And sometimes it’s really complex. We have a guest that’s been in hospice care for eight months and we stay with him and support him to make sure he is housed, safe and getting the emotional and spiritual support he needs until the end.”

Even as it expands its services, WATTS remains committed to providing temporary overnight shelter during cold-weather months. Accommodations will be offered Nov. 6 through March 13 at more than a dozen churches in Winchester and Frederick County, starting with Welltown United Methodist Church at 1444 Welltown Road in Clear Brook. A complete operating schedule is available at, and Miller said the weekly shelters are expected to remain open 24 hours a day starting the week of Nov. 28.

The next goal, Miller said, is to open a permanent daytime facility that’s available year-round to individuals experiencing homelessness.

“It would give us a wonderful place for our transition support staff to meet with people,” she said. “We would like to have showers, washers and dryers.”

Miller said she would also like the facility to include a room where homeless clients with overnight jobs can sleep during the day. Overnight shifts generally pay more than those during the daytime, she said, but WATTS clients are often unable to work those hours because Winchester has no daytime shelters where they can sleep when their shift ends.

“It takes a lot of money,” Miller said about opening a permanent daytime facility.

On Saturday, WATTS raised an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 at its annual fundraising dinner, “An Evening of Caring and Sharing,” at Bowling Green Country Club North near Front Royal. Miller said the final tally of donations has not yet been calculated.

The dinner also gave Miller and the WATTS board of directors an opportunity to honor the businesses and volunteers whose support makes it possible for the organization to care for the homeless in Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County:

  • The Marion Schottelkorb Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Steven Cunningham, who serves as lead volunteer for at least one shelter week per season and continuously recruits area businesses to donate food, haircuts and other services.
  • The David Witt Board Member of the Year award went to John Conrad, the nonprofit’s longtime treasurer whose guidance and oversight of expenditures helped WATTS save enough money to open its cooling and warming centers.
  • The Community Partner of the Year award was given to Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury, a retirement community in Winchester that has washed the laundry for guests of the cold-weather shelters since the first one opened in 2009. Miller said the laundry services provided by Westminster-Canterbury are valued at approximately $6,000 for each five-month shelter season.

Miller also praised her entire board of directors, which she said is comprised of the hardest working, most dedicated people she has ever worked with.

“They genuinely care about the homeless people in our area and their effect on the community as a whole,” she said. “I feel so fortunate because I know not everybody has a board like that.”

To learn more about WATTS and its initiatives to help area residents escape homelessness, visit


By BRIAN BREHM The Winchester Star

— Contact Brian Brehm at


Via Winchester Star

Original article:

WATTS Fundraising Dinner

Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter Executive Director Robyn Miller (left) poses Saturday with Steven Cunningham, winner of the WATTS Volunteer of the Year award. WATTS, which formed in 2009, has grown from an organization that provides temporary overnight shelter each winter to one that offers a variety of year-round services to the homeless. Courtesy photo

WATTS Fundraising Dinner

The nonprofit Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter organization revealed its new logo (above) Saturday night during its annual fundraising dinner. Courtesy image

Homelessness is a Problem in Winchester, Frederick County & Clarke County

The WATTS program is driven by our mission to offer a safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals in the Winchester, VA region during the cold weather months. Direct program support for WATTS is dependent on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, churches, and civic groups. WATTS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Become a good neighbor in the truest sense by helping WATTS provide shelter to the neediest of our neighbors.

Crisis Averted – WATTS ready to shelter the homeless amid pandemic

After being cleared of yard sale items, this room in the basement of the vacant First United Methodist Church building will be the home of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program this season. Shown here is Robyn Miller, WATTS executive director, and Sean Devolites, pastor at First United Methodist Church. Photo by JEFF TAYLOR/ THE WINCHESTER STAR
First United Methodist Church on North Braddock Street, which is vacant and for sale, will be the home of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter ( WATTS) program this season ? as long as the church building isn't sold. This means WATTS clients will not have change locations each week as they have previously done. Photo by JEFF TAYLOR/ THE WINCHESTER STAR

WINCHESTER — When winter rolls into the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter ( WATTS) can be the difference between life and death.

Each year, the nonprofit WATTS organization partners with area churches to offer overnight shelter for homeless people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets in frigid temperatures. COVID-19 nearly shelved the program this year, though, because none of the participating churches could offer a large enough space for up to 35 homeless clients to get a good night’s sleep while remaining socially distanced.

At the last second, serendipity intervened.

The board and clergy of First United Methodist Church in downtown Winchester happened to have an empty building available, and it happened to be big enough to accommodate 35 guests plus an assortment of volunteers. That means WATTS will open on time for its 2020-21 winter season, which begins on Nov. 7.

“If this hadn’t come through, we would have been in trouble,” WATTS Executive Director Robyn Miller said on Monday.

Here’s how it happened.

Last October, First United Methodist Church decided to sell its building at 308 N. Braddock St. and build a new worship facility on 16.2 acres it owns at 362 Apple Pie Ridge Road in Frederick County.

The final church service at the Braddock Street location was held on March 1. Since then, First United Methodist officials have been waiting for someone to buy the building, which is listed for sale for $1,545,595. Proceeds will be used to build a new church on Apple Pie Ridge Road. Until then, the congregation has been holding worship services online and, when the weather cooperates, in an outdoor picnic shelter.

Meanwhile, WATTS was beginning to fear it would not be able to offer a full-size shelter, or perhaps any shelter at all this winter.

Then First United Methodist Church Pastor Sean Devolites called Miller with an offer she couldn’t refuse.

No buyer of the former church building had yet come forward, Devolites said, and the large social hall in its basement was mostly empty, so WATTS was welcome to use the facility until its sheltering season ends on March 27 or the property is sold, whichever comes first.

“Everyone knows where First United Methodist is, so it will be easy for them to find,” Miller said.

She said her top priority is keeping WATTS clients and volunteers healthy, so everyone will have their temperatures checked and be asked a series of wellness questions each time they arrive at the shelter.

“If they have a temperature and answer yes to any of those questions, they’ll be sent to Valley Health,” Miller said. “We also have a sick room we can put them in for the night to make sure everything’s OK.”

The shelter will operate every day from 7 p. m. to 7 a. m. beginning Nov. 7. Clients will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

During the days, Miller said WATTS volunteers and guests will thoroughly clean and sanitize the First United Methodist shelter to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Normally, WATTS rotates shelter locations among its partner churches from week to week. Not only does that require a lot of tear- down, moving and setup, it also means buses must be contracted to drive homeless people to any churches that are not within walking distance of Old Town.

“The churches we would have gone to are still participating. They’ll just be hosting out of this location,” Miller said. “It’s nice to have one spot.”

The First United Methodist social hall is ideal. Not only is it big enough for the full- size WATTS program, it also negates the need for commuter buses and is connected to a commercial-grade kitchen where volunteers can prepare breakfast and dinner for the WATTS clients each day. There are bathrooms throughout the building, and a special trailer will be brought in so guests can shower.

Miller said she is currently working with Winchester Rescue Mission to find a site for a permanent shelter.

“We’re looking for a location that we can hopefully have a day and night shelter together in one spot,” she said. “That would allow us to extend our season.”

Meanwhile, First United Methodist is proceeding with efforts to sell its property. If a buyer steps up and wants WATTS to leave before its season ends on March 27, the nonprofit will have to go, and Miller said she’s not sure where the shelter could end up.

“We’ll help as long as we can,” Devolites said. “We’re really excited to work together.”

To learn more about WATTS or to volunteer to assist at its shelter this season, visit

Contact Brian Brehm at


Click here for the original Winchester Star Article.

Watts Receives Grant From United Way NSV For $10,000

United Way


Robyn Miller, WATTS, Executive Director, 540-514-7128

Winchester, Virginia (5/20/20) – WATTS is pleased to announce it has received a $10,000 grant from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. These funds will support the safe, reliable transportation to and from warm, safe, overnight cold weather shelter.

WATTS has received a grant to support safe, reliable bus transportation to homeless guests to temporary shelter locations that are beyond walking distance from Winchester’s downtown. In the 2020-2021 shelter season, WATTS will provide transportation in the evening and morning to 14 shelters between our bus stop in downtown Winchester and shelters operated by our hosts in Frederick and Clarke Counties and the City of Winchester. Providing transportation allows WATTS to partner with host organizations outside downtown Winchester, thereby extending the number of weeks during the cold weather WATTS is able to provide shelter and respite for homeless people in our community.

“WATTS is eternally grateful for the support we received from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. This funding will allow WATTS to continue providing reliable transportation of our homeless guests.” stated Laurel Coleman, President of WATTS, “COVID-19 has impacted WATTS and our ability to fundraise, therefore, this grant is especially appreciated during these uncertain times. God Bless the United Way!”

United Way NSV awards annual grants through a competitive application and Fund Distribution review process that is entirely completely by community volunteers. This year volunteers reviewed funding applications, undertook site visits and recommended grant funding to focus on priority human care needs as defined by United Way’s Community Needs Assessment.

About United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley: Since 1946 the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley has worked to impact the community human care needs that matter most to the people of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah Counties and the City of Winchester. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley convenes the people and organizations necessary to create solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges and collaborates with effective partners. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley seeks to serve as the catalyst for community change by supporting over 42 partner agencies in the areas of Financial Stability, Health and Education. For more information visit our website Follow us on Twitter @UWNSV.

Businessman gives WATTS $50,000 donation toward new shelter

J.J. Smith, at center, has pledged $50,000 for every $100,000 raised by organizers of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program to help finance a permanent home. He recently made his first donation to the program. At left is Robyn Miller, interim executive director of WATTS. At right is Laurel Coleman, president of WATTS. Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Local businessman J.J. Smith recently donated $50,000 to the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) to help the nonprofit program raise money for a permanent shelter.
Smith, the president and CEO of Valley Proteins, told WATTS he would give them $50,000 for every $100,000 the group raises toward establishing a permanent shelter, up to $200,000. WATTS received its first $50,000 check from Smith on Jan. 31.

“It’s an extraordinary blessing for WATTS to realize what he is committing to us,” said Laurel Coleman, president of the WATTS board of directors. “We are just so eternally grateful for his generosity.”

Started in 2009, WATTS provides up to 35 homeless adults with overnight shelter for a 20-week period from November to March. WATTS participants are served a hot dinner, breakfast and the option of a bagged lunch. Area churches and other groups take turns hosting the program for one week at a time. The current session ends March 28.

Coleman said that Smith reached out to her after longtime WATTS leader Marion Schottelkorb died in July. WATTS is trying to fulfill Schottelkorb’s vision of establishing a permanent shelter that can hold more people.
“I know the churches were going together and taking their turns in providing shelter in the winter,” Smith said. “And I think we as a community need a more permanent option. So I figured I could and I wanted to help with the fundraising.”

Coleman said WATTS was able to raise $100,000 through donations and several fundraising events.
WATTS Interim Executive Director Robyn Miller said the cost of a permanent shelter has not yet been determined since WATTS still needs to determine if it will need to purchase land and construct a new building or renovate an existing building.

“There are too many variables at this point,” she said. 

Coleman said that the WATTS board of directors is currently exploring all options for the new shelter and wants to ensure it has the finances to complete the project.

“Our thought is we want to make sure once we start down the path, we can go forward,” Coleman said. “We want to be able to utilize the funds properly and know that we have a significant amount to where there isn’t going to be a roadblock for us. Once we start, we want to see it through completion.”

Donations for WATTS can be made at PO Box 2936 Winchester, VA 22604 or online at For more information about WATTS contact call 540-327-5431 or email

— Contact Josh Janney at
Click here for the original article.


Former WATTS clients pay it forward

WINCHESTER — A local couple that was once homeless donated $1,000 to an organization they say helped them when they had no place to stay.

It took Wayne Daniels, 49, and Cherie Donivan, 47, about two years to save up the 10 crisp $100 bills they gave to the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter, better known as WATTS, on Wednesday night.

“It felt great,” Daniels said about making the donation. “WATTS is like a guardian angel for homeless people.”

Founded in 2009, WATTS is a local nonprofit group that provides free overnight shelter from November to March for 35 people. Area churches take turns hosting the shelter during its 20-week season.

Four years ago, Daniels and Donivan found themselves with no place to live after they were kicked out of their Berryville home because they couldn’t afford it.

“We didn’t know anything about being homeless,” Daniels said.

Initially, they received help from their church, which paid for a one-week motel stay, and from a friend who offered a room, but it was WATTS that sheltered the couple for about four months until they could get back on their feet. Since February 2017, Daniels and Donivan have been in their own apartment in Winchester. A local nonprofit group helped with their first month’s rent and deposit, and a local church donated furnishings.

Saving up $1,000 wasn’t easy for the couple, both of whom are disabled and receive disability benefits. They scrimped and saved to make the donation.

But they said it was something they wanted to do.

“I said if I ever have any money to give, I’m giving it to WATTS,” Daniels said. “When we needed help, they fed us and clothed us and gave us a warm place to sleep. They bent over backwards to help us.”

Robyn Miller, WATT’s interim executive director, said she cried when she received the donation on Wednesday night at Christ Episcopal Church on Boscawen Street, which is hosting WATTS this week.

“They’re just a wonderful success,” Miller said about Daniels and Donivan. She added that they have donated food to WATTS before and helped WATTS guests in other ways.

Miller said the $1,000 from the couple will be “used to help shelter our guests, just like they were sheltered.”

It costs $30 a night to shelter a WATTS guest, which includes meals and transportation to and from the host site, according to Miller. In addition to the 20 faith-based groups that host WATTS, it takes another 50 partner organizations to make the program work, she said.

Miller declined to give the group’s annual operating budget, but said, “We don’t really have a lot of money to operate on a daily basis. Most of our gifts are given to us in kind.”

— Contact Cynthia Cather Burton at
Click here for the original article.

A night of music to benefit WATTS

WINCHESTER — Enjoy an evening of live music and help out a local nonprofit during the Music with a Mission concert on Thursday night.

Four bands will play to help out the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS). Working with local churches, WATTS provides safe, temporary, overnight shelter to the homeless from November to March.

The concert takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bright Box, 15 N. Loudoun St. in downtown Winchester.

Performing that night are: Lowly Souls (Southern rock); The Tribe (funk/soul/R&B); Oceans in Heaven (indie-pop); a little too serious (indie-folk).

Tickets and reservations aren’t necessary. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

Food and drink available are purchase.


Click here for the original Winchester Star article.

New WATTS executive director continues to seek permanent location

Robyn Miller, the new interim executive director of WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Robyn Miller, interim executive director for the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS), said the charity is “constantly” working on several leads for a permanent, year-round location to shelter the area’s homeless.

“Housing in Winchester just gets more and more expensive,” Miller said on Tuesday. “We’re displacing people all the time.”

WATTS, a nonprofit group, partners with local faith-based organization to provide overnight shelter to people who need a warm place to sleep when the weather turns cold. The program rotates through various churches, a week at a time, for 20 weeks.

Miller, a WATTS board member and former volunteer, recently succeeded Marion Schottelkorb, who died last month. Miller is acting as interim executive director until Jan. 1, at which time she will solidify her position.

She said she would like to be the director that sees “Marion’s vision” of a permanent, 365-day-a-year shelter become a reality.

Progress is being made on that vision, Miller said. The Salvation Army has offered to donate some land, while several churches have offered buildings, she said.

Miller declined to say exactly where the land and buildings are because WATTS’ expansion committee is still studying each site, she said. But it is a primary project the 15-member board is undertaking.

There are more immediate concerns, Miller said. Fundraising is a constant worry, as it takes $130,000 to put on the 20 weeks of programming. The WATTS program will begin Nov. 9.

Expenses include the bus WATTS owns, medical supplies and pay for the night watchmen who stay with the 35 sheltered guests.

Also, First United Methodist Church is moving from downtown, so that location will not be available this year, Miller said. The board has to find another location for that week.

Miller said she would also like to chip away at the stigma of homelessness. While some of the WATTS guests are people with mental illnesses and physical disabilities, more than half of them are people who work jobs in construction or restaurants, she said.

“They go to work every day,” she said, adding that the competition and cost of housing in the area can be so intense that working people cannot afford a place to live.

A member of Braddock Street United Methodist Church. Miller said she was looking for a volunteer opportunity and ended up helping when Braddock Street UMC hosted WATTS. She became a board member about a year ago, she said.

Miller is the only full-time employee of WATTS. Her salary is $52,000, she said.

WATTS can only take 35 people, Miller said. They frequently have to turn people away “and it’s awful.”

She said she was immediately enamored with WATTS’ mission when she started volunteering and hopes to continue maintaining and growing the organization.

“It’s just a meal, a bed and fellowship,” she said. “And it makes such a huge difference in the community.”

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at
Click here for the original Winchester Star article.


Support WATTS year-round!

Just $10 a month can change the life of someone experiencing homelessness in Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke County.