CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In her lifetime, Sharon Pendleton has survived sexual assault and being shot at point-blank range. She's gone from living in abandoned houses and being addicted to drugs to staying clean, earning a GED, keeping a job and even owning her own business.
Pendleton is one of a few West Virginia residents that may be featured in a forthcoming book that aims to put a face on homelessness in America.
"I am clean, I am sober and I am free," Pendleton said, repeating a line from an acceptance speech she once gave at a YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon, where she was the agency's first Empowerment Award Winner.
On Saturday, representatives from a San Diego-based PR firm interviewed Pendleton at the YWCA Sojourner's Shelter for Homeless Women and Families. Representatives from the firm are going to several different states, interviewing homeless people or, as in Pendleton's case, people who used to be homeless. The goal is to publish a book with the people's stories. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the shelters where the interviews took place.
The project brought Melissa Carrion and Samantha Lutz from the firm's New York office to West Virginia for the first time Saturday. They will continue with interviews Sunday at Crossroads Men's Shelter in Charleston.
The idea for the book came from the firm's owner, Michael Olguin, Carrion and Lutz said. The company has always encouraged community service but Olguin wanted to do more, they said. The staff paired off into teams and drew a state from a hat.
"Everyone really wanted to be a part it," Lutz said.