The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 18, 2013

Volunteers helping homeless one household at a time

United Way column

By Frank Wood

— Many paths lead to homelessness: job loss, emotional trauma, death in the family, addiction, domestic violence, medical emergencies.

But these are crises that we all experience, whether we have housing or not.

We all know of someone who was laid off from his job during the recession, or who has a drinking problem, or who’s on medication for depression.

The difference is that those people in your life most likely have someone — maybe you — they can turn to when they need help or support, whether it’s emotional, financial or practical.

But when others hit a bump in the road and don’t have a support system to turn to, their lives can spiral out of control and the results can be traumatic and devastating, especially if it involves losing housing and stability.

Perhaps it’s the single mothers who have escaped domestic violence, or perhaps they are the young adults who have aged out of foster care and have no one to teach them life skills.

A medical emergency, a car accident or the death of a breadwinner can make it impossible for some families to stay in their homes.

Maybe a family got behind on the rent because of costly car repairs or utility bills.

Some might stay in rescue missions or other facilities for a while; others, though, might not be able to get into shelters because of rules or capacity.

During the day, some people might even visit the library or other public places just to keep warm.

People become homeless because they lose their support systems and can’t maintain their housing. Many individuals and families, who never thought such a thing could happen to them, are finding themselves homeless for the first time.

So when the United Way is able to help provide needs and put those supports back in place, volunteers are able to solve homelessness one household at a time.

And through outreach and assistance with basic needs, like warm meals and groceries, emergency shelter or temporary lodging, the United Way is helping homeless individuals with the essentials and providing hope for a better tomorrow.

Homelessness affects our entire community: its economy, safety, health and sense of well-being. When we solve a homeless problem, we see resources freed up to meet other needs, and see our neighbors restored to lives of wholeness and dignity.

The United Way of Southern West Virginia is working to make sure everyone in our community has the opportunity to build a better future.

This year, the United Way will make grants to local agencies providing direct services to reduce homelessness and hunger. Working with food banks, emergency homeless shelters, domestic violence service providers, community resource centers and faith-based groups in every corner of our five-county region — Raleigh, Wyoming, Summers, Nicholas and Fayette — the United Way invests in crises intervention services, setting the stage for families to work toward long-term stability.

At the United Way of Southern West Virginia, we believe in neighbors helping neighbors. We are a safety net for local citizens and a ladder for those who need a way up. We are working in our community every day to make sure that it offers an opportunity for all.

The United Way of Southern West Virginia is creating a happier, healthier region by inspiring collaboration, fundraising and volunteerism throughout our community.

To volunteer or make a contribution, call 304-253-2111.

------

Important Date: Friday, Nov. 22, Wonderland of Trees Auction at Lewis Pre-Owned Showroom. Final preview starts at 5:30 p.m. and the auction starts at 6 p.m.

— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2013-2014 Campaign Chair Frank Wood is publisher of Beckley Newspapers.