Shindig aims at youth homeless issue

I enjoyed last Saturday’s Shindig music festival at the Ohio River Rowing Club at 19th and Keever streets.

It was an opportunity to listen to live music performed by bands from outside the area, talk to friends I hadn’t seen in a while and raise money for good causes, all while sitting along the Ohio River in Parkersburg on a beautiful late spring night.

The evening also turned out to be an eye-opener for me.

I didn’t realize the magnitude of the homeless problem among children and young adults in this area and across the state before talking to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia officials at the fundraiser, which supports that dedicated organization.

I listened as Shelley Plauche, regional director of the Children’s Home Society of W.Va. at 1717 St. Marys Ave., talked passionately about the problems faced by some young people.

For instance, I was told about a local teenager who was kicked out of her house by her parents when she became pregnant and ended up living in a pickup truck.

The Children’s Home Society in Parkersburg became involved when it learned an 18-year-old male was living in a tent by a bridge because he had no other place to go.

A homeless person slept in front of the library at night after spending the day reading inside the library, Plauche said.

Plauche sees a big need for a transitional living program for homeless and runaway youth. The loss of federal funding for this program two years ago left the Children’s Home Society relying on private donations and foundations to help these kids.

“Homeless kids are not as visible (as homeless older adults) in this area,” Plauche said. These youngsters don’t tend to congregate with the older homeless people at the local “tent city” along the river and other locations, she said.

The Children’s Home Society will be conducting a SleepOut on Nov. 7, probably at City Park, to raise awareness and money to help homeless youth and young adults.

“We sleep out so the kids don’t have to,” Plauche said about the November fundraiser.

Plauche would like for churches, businesses and civic organizations to become involved in addressing the homeless youth problem. She noted that United Bank in Parkersburg has been a big supporter of the Children’s Home Society, including helping at Saturday’s Shindig fundraiser.

Besides needing money to provide housing for homeless teens, the Children’s Home Society welcomes donations of non-perishable food items, blankets, coats and personal hygiene products.

The CHS tries to find a “safe” relative or foster home for the homeless young people.

The transition from youth to adulthood can be difficult for 18-year-olds who don’t have support or guidance at home, Plauche said.

“When they turn 18, some have nowhere to go and no social or life skills” to rely on, she added.

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Ben Parks is hoping for a large turnout at the sixth annual Parkersburg High School multi-class reunion at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at Dils Riverfront Park in Vienna. Parks, event organizer from the PHS Class of 1982, lives in Solomons, Md. All PHS alumni 21 and older, current and former PHS faculty members and PHS supporters are invited to attend, said Parks. Besides the food and drink, Tracy Allen (PHS Class of 1992) will be playing the guitar and singing at the outdoor reunion along the Ohio River. Any proceeds, after costs are paid, will be donated to a PHS graduate or a graduate’s family member who is battling cancer, Parks said. For more information contact Parks at 304-488-9882 or email ben-parks@hotmail.com.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com