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One cold night

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Seniors at Eminence High School spent Friday night gathered in cardboard boxes, huddled in pairs, with winter jackets and blankets, spending a night in the cold, all to raise awareness for the homeless.

By Brad Bowman

Logan Smith knows what it’s like to be homeless.

Before finding her real dad and having a home again, Smith played the piano at a jazz-themed McDonald’s in Indiana for tips to eat. The experience and lessons learned compelled Smith to lead a homeless awareness senior project for Eminence High School seniors.  Smith doesn’t take anything for granted.

“I am really more open minded toward other people,” Smith said. “There are some people who want to get back into society. They aren’t just lazy or don’t want to work. Homelessness can happen to anyone.”

Senior project advisor Stephanie Barrows said the whole senior class decided to get behind the project.

“They care so much about Logan and really wanted to do it together,” Barrows said. “They will get sponsors and pledged to get $1 for every hour they spend outside in the cold with no sleeping bags and I am taking up their cell phones.”
At time of press, Smith said about 30 students participated and raised almost $1,000. Smith wants to give the money and donated items to the men’s shelter in Shelby County.

“We ended up getting a huge amount of donated items,” Barrows said. “We have everything from detergent to sheets. We received a great variety of things for the shelter.”

Lee Bean executive director of Open Door of Hope the men’s shelter in Shelbyville thinks people would be surprised at the amount of homelessness in the region.

“We have men from Henry County that come here because there isn’t a shelter there,” Bean said. “When I first started getting involved, I was really shocked, as would most people in our area, at the amount of homeless people there are.”

Open Door of Hope in Shelbyville is the only men’s shelter in Shelby County serving more than 300 people since it began three years ago. The shelter can hold 18 men at one time.

“Some people stay here short term and others for a month or longer,” Bean said. “We work with each individual to find out their individual needs.”

The shelter will aid those seeking a way to rehabilitate or even get a hair cut for a job interview, Bean said.

“There are several different ways people can get involved,” Bean said. “It could be taking a tour of the place, a family or Sunday school class brings a meal every night here. We don’t cook here at the shelter. We need supplies like paper goods, coffee, creamer and sweeteners or gift cards to Kroger or Walmart for supplies.”

According to the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, data from the National Survey of Programs and Services for Homeless Families shows that in January 2010, 6,623 family members and individuals in Kentucky were homeless on any given night. More than 78 percent of the agencies working with homeless or ‘precariously housed persons’ had a greater demand for services in 2010.

Smith hopes by raising awareness to the problem ultimately people will get the help they need.

“I would spend the night in abandoned houses or in the woods for about five months,” Smith said. “I don’t take anything for granted. The more I moved around the more dangerous were the people I came in contact with.”

Smith’s family complications influenced her decision to go out on her own and now compel her to bring attention to the issue.

“I got really stressed out the more I moved around,” Smith said. “I just kept thinking of being in a home. It was the hope and change that kept me going.”

E-mail us about this article at news@hclocal.com.