About 30 people from Youngstown and Mahoning County community agencies participated Friday morning in the fifth annual Homeless Walk to raise awareness that people might have to walk one or two or three miles to find shelter.
The walk started at the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s soup kitchen at 208 W. Front St. and ended about a mile away at the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley at 962 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Rescue Mission is the only homeless shelter in Mahoning County, said Robert Altman, program director for Help Hotline Crisis Center, sponsor of the walk with the mission.
This is the 23rd year that Help Hotline, the mission and other community organizations and funders have come together to provide assistance to the homeless during the winter months in the form of the Cold Weather Emergency Shelter Program, said Altman at a press conference in the men’s dormitory at the mission.
He estimated there are 350 homeless people in Youngstown and Mahoning County who are in and out of the mission.
Altman said homeless individuals and/or families often sleep in their vehicles, abandoned buildings, doorways or anywhere to get out of the cold.
Many stay with family or friends, but “doubling up” usually lasts only a short time.
“Our goal remains that no one freezes to death because they do not have anywhere to sleep.” he said.
The Rescue Mission reported the number of “bed stays” in 2011 was 6,869, a 27 percent increase over 2010; the number of children bed stays was 84, and adult female bed stays was 172.
The statistics are a duplicate number based on the bed stays. Individuals and/or families are counted each night they spend at the shelter.
The Cold Weather Emergency Shelter Program runs through March 31.
The program hours are 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
People who need shelter or who know of people who need shelter can call the Rescue Mission at 800-427-3606 or dial Help Hotline’s 211 number.