"One night, I stayed out with a gentleman who did not want to go to the shelter," Strickland said. "He was very resistant. He and I sat around the bonfire all night; he would sleep, he would get up and we would talk.
"It took probably six months after the event to get him involved with services, but he was a veteran and we got him involved with the VA service center and got him involved with some housing assistance, and he actually got housed."
According to Strickland, the solution to homelessness is simpler than most people realize, and very straightforward.
"The answer to homelessness is housing -- more decent, affordable housing and assistance paying for that housing," she said. "Homelessness is expensive -- and it is expensive for society. Having people who are living on the streets, and they get arrested for loitering, being outside, trespassing.
"We've done cost studies where the homeless were costing the city about $70,000 a year in ER visits, for police, in EMS services. People want to say they don't want to pay for things, but they're already paying."
For KVCTC students Heather Walker and Mika Crace, living in Charleston and seeing the issue firsthand compelled them to attend Friday's event.
"Everyone remembers 'Aqualung,'" Walker said, referring to a longtime area homeless man. "I remember walking to the bar, bringing out food from Chili's and giving him our food. He was so sweet. It was one of those things. I just felt so bad for him. . . . It's such a small state, and yet there's all this stuff that isn't talked about."
Crace recalled a man who had died of exposure. The man, Robert Lee Hissom, was found dead in December 2010 under the Quarrier Street Bridge, behind the Charleston Civic Center.
"He literally froze to death," Crace said. "That shouldn't happen. That just should never happen."
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.