Friendship Room's New Building

By September, the Fairmont Friendship Room hopes to fully move into this building, at 10 Locust Ave., at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue, Jackson Street and Locust Avenue.

FAIRMONT — After delays, complications and hiring issues, the peer recovery center Friendship Fairmont is delaying its public reopening till at least Sept. 1.

Milan Puskar Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones, which founded Friendship Fairmont, said its planned move to a former automobile dealership at 10 Locust Ave. has been delayed due to various reasons. At its monthly zoom meeting, members of the Fairmont Homeless Coalition discussed issues that impact the local homeless community.

“We have had one set back after another, but I feel like we’re finally moving in the right direction,” Jones said. “We’re now in the new building and as soon as we... went to start getting things in place the air conditioning broke.”

A few other problems have plagued Friendship Fairmont and the new location will offer more space for to offer expanded activities.

Earlier this year, the Friendship Room was asked to vacate their previous location on the fourth floor of the courthouse annex on Adams Street. The request came after several incidents occurred between patrons of the Friendship Room, and individuals visiting the Day Report Center, which is located on the first three floors of the annex.

“I think [Friendship Fairmont] is a great program, it just was in the wrong place,” said Randy Elliot, Marion County Commission president, in a previous interview.

Now, several setbacks involving the new location have forced the Friendship Room to close its doors until the HVAC system can be repaired. The Friendship Room officially vacated its old location, but the organizers can’t, in good faith, its their doors.

“It breaks my heart a little bit not being open, because we have a lot of clients in the community who rely on us and look to us for even a safe place to go to have coffee or talk to some peers,” said Maryanna Mason, community engagement specialist for the Friendship Room, in published reports.

These issues are compounded with the center’s lack of a program director, a position Health Right currently is looking to fill.

“We are still looking for a program director,” Jones said. “That’s going to be a sticking point for sure.”

Jones said she is looking for someone with a bachelor’s in criminal justice or social work or someone in long-term recovery with the life experience of management to take the position.

“Someone with lived experience or the degree, that’s what would work best for us.”

Many of the applicants have been overqualified for the position, and Jones says she’s at the end of the line of candidates.

Anyone interested in more information about the program manager position for the Friendship Room should email Laura Jones at ljones@mphealthright.org.

Other business

Coalition members received an update from the Tygart Valley United Way which just wrapped up its distribution of money through the Fairmont Family Relief Fund.

The United Way started with $100,000 and distributed it much faster than anticipated. Families who were in need of rent or utility assistance could apply and receive up to $2,000 in aid.

“We went through that money quickly, people needed it and we were one of the lower barrier options for people in the community,” said Emily Swain, director of community outreach for the TVUW. “The money really served the people well.”

The state reported to the TVUW staff that they were the only group that has managed to give money out from the first round of CARES Act funds that Congress approved for COVID-19 pandemic relief.

“That was our big project and we didn’t think it would be over in... three months,” Swain said. “That’s really an indication of how our community is doing.”

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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