MARIETTA - An event being held in Athens Jan. 14 aims to raise money for a homeless shelter in the city that's had to turn people away this year due to a lack of space.
"We've had to turn away about 140 people, including 62 children," said Keith Wasserman, executive director of Athens-based Good Works, Inc. "That's unprecedented in our history."
The Timothy House homeless shelter, which accepts people from Washington and Athens counties and eight others, is just one of many programs that is administered by Good Works, Inc., an organization that serves those struggling with homelessness and poverty.
"Good Works is really a Christian organization and we really look towards the community to help sustain us in the work we do to care for people who are really vulnerable," Wasserman said.
He said he's hopeful community members will come out in droves for the organization's Walk for the Homeless event and raise much needed funds for the shelter. This is the 10th year for the event, which Wasserman said draws people from not only Athens County, but also surrounding counties, including Washington. The shelter provides housing for those from Athens, Vinton, Washington, Hocking, Perry, Jackson, Meigs, Gallia and Morgan counties.
It is being held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and begins and ends at First United Methodist Church on 2 South College St. in Athens.
If You Go
What: Good Works' 10th annual Walk for the Homeless.
When: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 14.
Where: Begins and ends at First United Methodist Church, 2 South College St., Athens.
For information, visit www.walkforthehomeless.net or call (740) 594-3339.
"Our goal is for 500 people to participate and each person to raise $100, so our goal is $50,000," he said. "It provides all the operational funds to keep the shelter open - that is, it covers all the utilities and staffing costs, and just provides everything we need to keep running a home for people without homes."
Participants are encouraged to raise money by finding 10 sponsors who each agree to donate $10. All the money raised by participants will go toward the Timothy House, which is funded primarily by private donations.
While the event is an important fundraiser for the organization, Wasserman said it is also meant to be an educational experience, with information about homelessness and poverty being shared in each of the eight different "walk experiences."
"We have a mini-walk and that's designed for people that want to participate but really can't walk and that's about 100 feet," he noted.
Another walk experience, titled "Three Days on the Streets - Homeless Simulation," is designed to illustrate the many different frustrations homeless people encounter, resulting in participants feeling more compassionate toward those who are without homes.
Wasserman said the Timothy House serves between 150 and 225 men, women and children each year, and there has been an increase in the number of people in need of a homeless shelter in recent years because of the downturn in the economy.
"More people are losing their homes than ever before, more people are unemployed and there are a whole lot more people struggling with poverty," he said.
David Brightbill, executive director of Washington-Morgan Community Action, said homelessness is also a problem in Washington County.
He said a Point in Time homeless count from January showed that 249 people in the county were homeless. He described that simply as a snapshot from a single day.
"The majority of them are inappropriately housed, meaning you have two families living together and that's not their choice but they have to for financial reasons," he said.
"That's a historical problem here and it continues to be," Brightbill added.
Wasserman said it is not necessary to pre-register for the walk and even those who do not raise money can participate.