"If children are worried about where they're going to go after school, they can't learn," she said.
"We're seeing more families coming to us because we provide meals," she said.
But as needs have increased, resources to help have not kept up. Some have even been cut.
"Sequestration has provided us with the opportunity to lose 40 children and families in Marshall County alone." Midget said.
Others told lawmakers that housing programs have stopped taking new applications for help.
Ernest knows both personally and professionally what happens to children when parents can't meet their basic needs.
"Children are bouncing back and forth between their mom's or the boyfriend's," she said. Children may develop difficult behavior, which is hard to discipline and change because there are no set rules or no consistency in rules and schedules.
"It affects their behavior. They're not eating nutritious food, and then it is hard to get them to eat healthy food when you do have it," she said.
Ernest fought back sobs as she spoke to lawmakers. Later, recomposed, she said:
"Part of the reason I cried earlier is I know how easy it would be for me to be in the exact same situation as the families I see, if I'm not able to provide adequate housing for my daughter. I see the effects of inadequate housing on children every day."
Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.