LOGAN, W.Va. – According to statistics from the National Survey of Programs and Services for Homeless Families in 2011, displaced individuals in West Virginia exceeded a total of 566. Reports now show that the poverty level drifts to around 21 percent in some counties of the state; and for every 10,000 people, there are around a dozen homeless individuals—with many others living well below the poverty level, lacking basic utilities or modern conveniences. As alarming as these statistics might sound, many believe these numbers may even be low when compared with the actual state of homelessness because, for various reasons, destitute family situations often go under-reported. Sadly, the numbers are growing at an alarming rate due to the state’s economic decline.
In an effort to assist, the West Virginia Office of Economic Opportunity’s homeless programs are supporting a wide range of ventures for those in such need, providing monies for shelters, missions, and rapid re-housing projects. Yet, counties in the southern part of the state still have limited opportunities to offer. For example, Logan does not have a homeless shelter, other than warming station options provided by the Salvation Army and a few local churches when extreme weather forces some individuals and families to seek temporary, but sometimes unsafe, refuge.
Recognizing the magnitude of the need in the region, especially during the midst of the frigid temperatures and record snowfall that took place in mid-January, Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH) coordinated a massive relief effort in an attempt to assist individuals in Logan and Mingo Counties who faced the most dire of circumstances. The program, which is continuing, is both practical and emergency-based, and was initiated to provide some of the most basic of necessities for human existence—warmth and survival materials—and protection from the environmental elements. The ongoing endeavor reaches out to the homeless and needy on a daily basis—the “forgotten” men and women living under bridges or in abandoned buildings, and to local families who are struggling to survive.
According to Logan Mingo’s CEO, Donna Cooke, staff member Brett Collins spearheads the local effort, along with the assistance and manpower provided by IS program participants. In addition to directly impacting the community, this relief program simultaneously provides a means for LMAMH consumers to give back to the community, which is an important component to their ongoing treatment.
Through Facebook and local media outlets, Logan Mingo reached out, asking the general public for donations, and for churches and civic organizations to partner with them in the outreach, as well; and, according to Ms. Cooke, LMAMH staff members, individual citizens, and groups began to respond in a great way. Almost immediately, loads of donated items started arriving at the front lobby of the LMAMH Logan Center, at Three Mile Curve, including large boxes and heavy bags of new and like-new blankets and heavy throws, various sizes of adult coats and jackets, heavy socks and thick gloves—along with canned foods, bottled water, and ready to use food items.
“Words cannot begin to fully express how thankful we are for all the kind and generous people who jumped into action, and continue to give sacrificially to this effort,” Ms. Cooke said. She added that many on the streets who were hungry have now been fed, and who were cold have thick blankets, warm coats, and socks. Southern West Virginia people must be the most generous of all!”
Due to the extent of the need in the region, it has been determined that the emergency relief effort must continue, especially through these challenging winter months. Donations of blankets and adult coats, socks and gloves are still needed; also manual can openers (non-electric), canned and ready-to-eat food items, and bottled water are always in great demand. No donation is too small, and all items and monetary donations are used 100-percent for those in immediate need. Please note that other than the list of items specified, LMAMH does not accept clothing items, but does encourage the public to take clothing to the Salvation Army or other agencies that focus on clothing storage and distribution.
“All donations to LMAMH directly help the less fortunate right here at home,” Ms. Cooke added. “This relief effort is action-oriented; therefore, we intend to be vigilant about distributing items to the people of greatest need on a daily basis, whether that is folks living beneath a bridge, in an abandoned building, a camper, or at a home without water or heat.” Donated supplies will not be stored; rather, they will be delivered immediately, providing survival and warmth materials to individuals at the point of greatest need.
If individuals, families, church congregations, civic club, or organizations want to donate to this worthy cause, please contact Jennifer Gross at (304) 792-7130, Extension 1048, for information about drop-off or pick-up of donations. The goal is for all items to be distributed within two days of receipt to those most in need throughout Logan and Mingo Counties.