Monongalia County Survey Helps Homeless Population - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Monongalia County Survey Helps Homeless Population

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MORGANTOWN -

As the cold temperatures and snow hit this week many of us did our best to stay indoors, out of the weather.

Unfortunately some are not so lucky, and a local group is out to help change that.

Thursday the Point In Time survey began in parts of West Virginia. Coordinated by the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, the survey is part of a national effort.

Last year nearly 2,000 West Virginians were identified as homeless. Through talking to people, volunteers gather information that helps the state learn how it can better serve its homeless population.

"In Morgantown there's more homeless than people think," said Shari Blackley. "There are a lot of us. We stick together, and we look out for each other. It's like one big family."

For people like Shari Blackley and her family, the survey's potential could be the difference between a roof or not.

For the 10th year, the Caritas House is organizing the effort in parts of North Central West Virginia, including Monongalia County. Its volunteers are seeking out the state's needy to identify their greatest needs.

"Gathering the data through the Point In Time we're able to determine if the services we offer are adequate for the population we serve, or if we have a gap in services that we're missing something essential that people need to survive," said Sharon Wood, the executive director of the Caritas House.

On a cold, snowy January day their needs were as obvious as ever. With temperatures below freezing and a closed soup kitchen, some were destine to go without.

"We don't have a cold shelter in Monongalia County," said Wood. "A shelter people can go in and get warm whether they're intoxicated or not. And if there is a place where you can at least get warm, and get food makes it easier to get through the day."

To lend a hand the Caritas House opened its volunteer headquarters as a shelter, serving meals and providing an overnight place to rest.

But not having a place to go is something Blackley said is common, saying often they walk around from place to place, looking for a warm roof during the day.

"The bathrooms down here, sometimes you stand in them to get warm. You have to do what you have to do to survive," Blackley said.

The survey relies on volunteers who said the experience teaches a valuable lesson.

"Being from out of state, and being a student here I didn't realize how many people were in need. I just go about my day being a student and don't really observe my surroundings too much, so I'm taking away just how crucial it is for this community," said volunteer Ashley Bedell.

The Caritas House said the information gathered is used in grant applications, adding that in the past the studies have help lead to more food pantries and an increased number of organizations like Christian Help, and the Salvation Army.