CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Latisha Leftwich thought she would never be homeless. Then she experienced a series of financial setbacks and had no choice but to live on the streets and in shelters for more than two years, she said.
Leftwich, of Charleston, is now a homeowner who's fortunate enough to give back to those who helped her. And she's quick to warn others who think they are safeguarded from homelessness.
"It can strike anytime and it can strike anyone," Leftwich said. "Homelessness does not discriminate."
Leftwich and others volunteered with the Kanawha Valley Collective's annual "One Night Without a Home" event Thursday at Magic Island. It was held during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Volunteer Stephanie Hyre said the event was held to raise awareness about homelessness by asking participants to camp out overnight. Free food, hot chocolate and a bonfire were offered to anyone who wanted it.
Those who camped outside experienced what about 800 West Virginians go through without a home every night, she said.
"It's not a problem that we're so far removed from that it can't happen to us," Hyre said. "A lot of us got a small taste of what that's like when the electricity went out a few weeks ago."
Hyre said homelessness is affecting a growing number of families who are struggling to find work in the Kanawha Valley.
Joe Barker and his daughter, Alicia Leyda, both of Charleston, said they never thought homelessness would affect them like it did.
Barker is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War who had a home and car before going homeless a few years ago. Leyda was a student at Marshall University when she hit rock bottom.