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Activists call attention to plight of homeless

November 15, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

Cheryl Moyer Walkley remembers spending the night outside last November, too cold to sleep as she got a glimpse of how a homeless person has to live.

The executive director of the Community Action Council talked to a friend also spending the night outside for the first Grate American Sleepout about how the world needs to change so that people are not homeless.

"I think our anger kept us warm during the night," Walkley said Friday night as she prepared to spend the night outside once again for the second annual Grate American Sleepout.

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About 50 people attended a ceremony at Hagerstown City Park as about a dozen activists prepared to spend the night outside with temperatures dropping in to the low teens.

The purpose of the Grate American Sleepout is to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and for citizens who normally would never be homeless to get an understanding of what life is like for those without shelter, said Glenda S. Helman, Sleepout Committee chairwoman for the Washington County Task Force on Homelessness.

An estimated 100 people are homeless each night in Washington County and shelters are only able to house about 60 to 70 of them, Helman said. Another 30 have to sleep wherever they can - under bridges and in abandoned buildings.

Walkley said she was not looking forward to the night outside. "You sit and you wait for the dawn," she said.

The program started Friday evening with young girls from Brownie troops 146, 535, and 345 singing camp fire songs around the burn barrel.

Scraps of lumber were burned in the metal barrels to provide warmth for the people outside.

Prayers were said for the homeless and then a memorial service was held for Terrence Vreeland, a homeless man who was crushed to death when the Dumpster he was sleeping in in Halfway was emptied into a compacting truck.

Emergency cold weather shelters are being set up by local churches for this winter. The first shelter will open Sunday at Christ Reformed Church on West Franklin Street. After that, the emergency shelter will be alternated every two weeks to other downtown churches.

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