• Poor quality housing interferes with children going to school and learning. They live in places where roofs and doors leak. They frequently live without water or heat for periods of time.
• Some children get their only meals at school, including children of working parents who may regularly drive an average of 28 miles to work.
• Children are hospitalized with psychological problems and drug dependence. When their conditions improve, they are sent home to the same circumstances that led to their problems.
• Children arrive at hospitals sexually active as young as 10. Sometimes they are dirty or infested with lice. No one has taught them how to keep themselves clean.
• Children arrive in schools and hospitals and tear up walls. They have been abused, neglected or both. They're angry. They cut themselves for relief.
• People who want to work need more opportunities to train in useful skills, and could be useful in helping to fix problems, such as poor housing.
• In the past, when parents were unable to take care of children, families turned to grandparents, but increasingly, children have no grandparents to rely on.
• A vacation Bible school has changed in recent years to respond to hungry children showing up. The church offers more sessions and more substantial food for children who are hungry during the summer.
The meeting was hosted by the Southern Appalachian Labor School for the 10th Senate District, which includes, Fayette, Greenbrier, Summers and Monroe counties. Unger hopes to convene committee meetings in all 17 districts to hear from individuals about helping children in poverty.
"I have $300 a month," Kimberly Goodwin Shrewsbury told the committee. "I have three kids in school and one works here. I'm so proud of them. I can't walk like I should. It's hard. I can't do it anymore. I came here to speak and get a meal."
Her children "can only do so much and go to school," she said. "I'm disappointed in myself because I can't do any better. I feel like a sponge. I'm a bum."
As soon as she finished, a man approached her and said he had a spare circuit breaker box, which seemed to be the source of trouble with power to her mobile home. They exchanged phone numbers. He planned to install it this weekend. Several others came by to thank her for speaking and passed her some cash, maybe for some food or kerosene in the meantime.
Meetings of the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty, including Wednesday's meeting in Oak Hill, can be seen on YouTube.Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.