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14 people attend homeless event

The group experienced dropping temperatures to draw attention to a societal problem.

The group experienced dropping temperatures to draw attention to a societal problem.

November 19, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - It was a cold night Friday with the temperature dropping to 34 degrees, but that did not deter some people from spending the night outside - and it was not to purchase the latest electronic game.

In an effort to raise awareness about hunger, homelessness and poverty in the Eastern Panhandle, people in Morgan and Berkeley counties spent the night experiencing what it's like not to have a home.

Audrey Morris, director of Morgan County Starting Points, a family resource center in Berkeley Springs, said the One Night Without a Home event was held to "spark conversation because it's becoming a huge problem in the county."

"We need shelters here in the county because we can't take care of them," Morris said.

Not everyone intended to spend the night, but about 14 people, including Town of Bath Mayor Susan Webster, Commissioner-elect Brenda Hutchinson and local church pastors, attended the event in the parking lot of Coldwell Banker.

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Morris said she borrowed a sleeping bag, and others brought large cardboard boxes to crawl into.

Sandwiches and a breakfast on Saturday were provided by local church members, Morris said.

Linda McGraw, director of student services for Morgan County Schools, said the county had 18 homeless students during the 2005-06 school year that fit the guidelines according to the federal McKinney Act and West Virginia law.

Living in a motel or weekly-rate housing, or in a house or apartment with more than one family because of economic hardship or loss, also is considered homeless, she said.

"We need a shelter in Morgan County, especially for the children, so we can keep them in their home schools because that may be the most stable place they have," McGraw said.

She said Morgan County Schools has some limited funding to help those families.

The Starting Points Soup Kitchen served 5,666 meals between October 2005 and November 2006, Morris said. Morgan County Interfaith Emergency Caregivers (MCIEC) and Word of Deliverance Church provided about 1,750 food baskets during the same time period, she said.

Glenda Helman, executive director of Community Networks Inc. in Martinsburg, W.Va., said this is the second year that people spent the night outside as part of the national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week that ended Saturday.

Starting Points collaborated with Community Networks Inc. to bring more attention to the issue, Morris said.

Helman said 143 men, women and children are homeless in the Eastern Panhandle.

"We need to educate people, and to make them aware of what needs to be done to address the problem," Helman said.

Bethany House in Martinsburg provides shelter for women and children. During the 2005-06 fiscal year, 143 women and 78 children were sheltered, and 6,900 meals were provided, Helman said.

The Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission provides shelter for men, and the Shenandoah Women's Center is a domestic violence shelter, Helman said.

Helman said no family shelter is available in the Eastern Panhandle.

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