CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For Charleston resident Amber Bailey, her reason for helping the homeless is simple: she's been there.
"We've all been there. Everybody falls on hard times," she said. "I had a house fire in 2011, and luckily, I was able to jump around and crash with friends with babies. I had two kids. I've got my own place now and I'm a student at [Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College]. Most people just need a helping hand."
Bailey was homeless for nearly a year and said, when her psychology teacher at KVCTC told her about One Night Without A Home, she wanted to donate her time and resources to helping the homeless in Charleston.
One Night Without A Home is an annual event sponsored by the Kanawha Valley Collective and is an opportunity for residents to spend a night outside to discuss, think about and learn about homelessness. The event, held Friday at Magic Island in Charleston, also promotes food and clothing donations.
According to Traci Strickland, vice president of the Kanawha Valley Collective, a one-day "snapshot" of the homeless population in the Kanawha Valley on Jan. 24 of this year totaled 411 homeless people. Strickland said the vast majority live in the city of Charleston.
"Once you leave Charleston, your closest homeless shelters are Huntington and Beckley," she said. "Boone, Logan, Lincoln and Putnam counties just don't have shelters so, if someone needs an emergency shelter, they're going to have to come to a larger city."
The event, now in its seventh year, encourages members of the city's homeless population to come out and learn more about job and housing opportunities, as well as to eat food and enjoy warmth and live music.
"We want people to be aware of the homeless problem in Charleston, and what we're trying to do is help with that," said Traci Johnson, program coordinator for the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action. "We're trying to offer services for them, and that is one of the reasons KISRA is here, because we help people try to find employment."
Previously, the event was for 12 hours and encouraged participants to sleep outside for a night to get a glimpse of homelessness, but it has been scaled back. This year's event ran from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Strickland said she hopes people learn from it.