- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

VIENNA, W.Va. (AP) - About 300 volunteers showed up to show “There is more than meets the eye” when it comes to homeless youth at the second annual Parkersburg SleepOut at the Jackson Memorial Park ballfields in Vienna.

Lisa Doyle-Parsons, transitional living case coordinator with the Children’s Home Society of Parkersburg, said the event is designed to raise funds and awareness about the homeless youth transitional living program. Doyle-Parsons said 17 teams built cardboard structures for the overnight event.

“We have some who will be in the structures and others camping out in tents,” she said Nov. 7. “Between the volunteers and campers we have about 300 out here.”

Last year she said the event took place at City Park in Parkersburg. Each participant paid a $25 fee and there was a competition to see who could raise the most money.

For 2015 she said the goal is raise $30,000 which is what is needed to help fund the program, She said the federal grant they were using for the program expired in 2013.

Doyle-Parsons said the campers were also competing in building shelters.

“We have twice the participation in the program compared to last year,” she said. “We have trophies for the shelters for first, second and third place, best design and best theme shelter which is ‘There is more than meets the eye,’ because there is so much more to homeless youth than you see on the surface.”

Doyle-Parsons said youth homelessness is a problem locally as CHS has served 1,000 youth since 2009 in Wood County. She said many can become victims of human trafficking.

Pam Jeffers, of Youth Services in Wheeling, said homeless youth are unrecognized because they manage to stay out of the public eye.

“It is very rare that you see a young one out panhandling for money,” she said. “They are more behind the scenes, they are kind of couch surfing between friends’ homes but many live outdoors.”

Jeffers added their family ties were severed many years ago. She said there are cases where the parents sent their children out when they reached 18 and the same thing is seen in some foster family cases where the 18-year-old is out because they age out of the system.

Doyle-Parsons said many come from dysfunctional homes and do not have the skills to care for themselves and the knowledge to find help.

Jessica Lipscomb and Elyssa West, from Pleasants County, were on one of the teams making a shelter Nov. 7. They said their families wanted to help others.

“We wanted to help the homeless and get money for them,” Lipscomb said.

Shawna Umpleby, youth leader at the United Methodist Youth Fellowship at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, said their group, along with the youth from First United Methodist Church of Parkersburg, came out to support the cause.

“We have about 13 from the two churches,” she said. “We are partners in prevention with Children’s Home Society and we wanted to help raise awareness and help their cause.”

Jeanine Ratliffe said she and some other fellow Whovians, fans of the television series “Dr. Who,” were working on their own version of the Doctor’s time traveling Tardis, a vehicle that is larger inside than it is outside.

“We are making this in the terms of it is more than meets the eye,” she said.

Seanna Johnson was part of a group from Parkersburg South High School that came out for the event.

“We are here to make a difference,” she said. “Our school did a clothing drive and collected about 500 items to give to the Children’s Home Society. We are here to learn what we can do.”

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Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com

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