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About 20 show up for homeless event

Shish kebabs, grilled chicken breasts, hot dogs, green beans, desserts and a variety of soft drinks were on the menu at the National Homeless Awareness Day cookout at the Family Guidance Center in Ironton.

Each year the second week of August is National Health Center week, recognizing the contributions of public health centers. One day during the week, the homeless are invited to a lunch.

Although they were hoping for more, only about 20 homeless people showed up for the cookout on Wednesday.

Preparing for the cookout, Kathy Lee, homeless health coordinator and volunteers went on a search to invite the homeless to the event.

“We started at Rome at the old locks and damn and we searched the riverbanks,” Lee said. “We searched their camp sites, the parks, creek banks, the old Carlisle building and under the bridges.”

Because of the heat, they didn’t find very many homeless people out in the usual places, she said. When it’s hot, a lot of homeless people will try to find a shady place like an abandoned building.

Lee has more than 300 homeless people in her caseload. By definition, she said a homeless person could be living in a house with another family.

“They can live in a camper, they can be transitional coming out of a prison system, they can be moving from one state to another because they’ve lost their job or their home, they can live in a camper, a tent or a box under the bridge,” she said. “There’s many things that define homeless in our criteria. We have many definitions of homeless.”

Fred Carey, program evaluator, fired up the grill and his wife, Evelyn, who is a schoolteacher, volunteered to make shish kebabs and help with the cookout.

“I just want to help the people,” Evelyn Carey said. “This is just one way I can do it.”

Jamie Casella, nutrition educator for the center, cooked the food for the day.

Although they do help the indigent population, the Family Guidance Center provides primary health care for people who do not have health insurance also, not just welfare recipients.

“We can save families with no health insurance hundreds of dollars,” Lee said. “We have sliding fees, we have premier health centers, and we have excellent doctors.”

On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to noon, National Health Center Week culminates in Coal Grove with a Fun Walk for Healthy Communities. The walk begins at 9 a.m. at Kemp Family Medical Center, 223 Carlton Davidson Lane.