[Hpn] Couple opens summer camp in West Virginia for homeless children
Grassroots Media Network
Sun, 30 Jul 2000 12:30:04 -0500
Couple opens summer camp in West Virginia for homeless children
Source: AP - AP Wire Service
Jul 29 11:02
By KIA SHANT'E BREAUX
Associated Press Writer
GLEN LYN, Va. (AP) _ Fifteen-year-old Shannon Stevenson used to tease
homeless people. Like many youngsters, he didn't understand their plight.
Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would end up homeless himself.
``I found out fast it could happen to anybody,'' said Shannon, who moved to
Roanoke, Va., nine months ago after his mother ended a relationship in
Va. ``No one likes being homeless, but I think it's like harder for kids
because we like to move around a lot and play.''
For 10 days this summer, Shannon and his 13-year-old brother, Daniel, found
lots of space at Scottie's Place _ a new 300-acre wilderness camp for
on the Virginia-West Virginia state line.
The camp, nestled at the top of the scenic Powell Mountain and located both
in Giles County, Va., and Monroe County, W.Va., provides respite from crowded
shelters and offers homeless children a wilderness adventure.
``It's a place where kids can be kids,'' said Jo-El Wadsworth, who opened
the camp this year with her husband, Paul Winter.
The couple from upstate New York quit their day jobs years ago to pursue
their dream of living off the land.
Scottie's Place was inspired by a boy named Scottie, whom the couple met
seven years ago while camping in Florida. Scottie lived with his parents
and baby brother in
a van. He stayed with the Winter-Wadsworths for nine months while his
parents got their lives back in order.
``Scottie was a marvelous boy, very adventurous,'' Winter said. ``Meeting
him is what opened our eyes to the issue of homelessness and the fact that
it affects so many
children as well.''
Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless
population, representing 36 percent of all homeless people, according to
the National Alliance to
End Homelessness. A 1998 survey of 30 U.S. cities found that children
accounted for 25 percent of the homeless population, according to the
National Coalition for
So far, two groups _ one from Roanoke and the other from Raleigh, N.C. _
have visited Scottie's Place. Winters and Wadsworth hope to attract groups from
metropolitan areas within a 500-mile radius, including Atlanta, Boston,
Lexington, Ky., and Washington, D.C.
Advocates for the homeless said there are few if any such camps in the
nation, and that the service Scottie's Place provides is invaluable.
``Homelessness is incredibly disruptive to children and the biggest
challenge for parents is for their children to keep a sense of
self-esteem,'' said Steven Berg, a
spokesman for the National Alliance to End Homelessness. ``Some place like
this will only help that, as well as give their parents a little time to
look for a place to live
and get their life back on track.''
Constance Stevenson, Shannon and Daniel's mother, said the boys came back
with more positive attitudes and are eager to return as camp counselors.
learned to play a piece by Beethoven on the camp piano.
``I'm jealous,'' she joked. ``He's learning to do things I've always wanted
The camp is free. Winter and Wadsworth provide transportation to and from
the camp and supply clothing and equipment. They rely on donations to keep
Campers are referred to Scottie's Place by teachers, clergy and counselors,
whom Wadsworth has contacted. Because it is a wilderness camp and safety is
children must be at least 8 years old with no history of drug or alcohol
abuse, criminal activities or violent behavior.
The camp emphasizes pioneer living, so there are few amenities. There's a
small cabin equipped with a few conveniences, such as a computer and a
Everyone, including camp counselors, Winter, Wadsworth and their four
children, sleep in small huts made of saplings, rope and canvas.
Some campers choose to scurry barefoot around the serene campground, where
food is cooked in cast-iron skillets over an open fire and wet apparel hangs on
clotheslines strung between trees. The campsite is near a spring, a
waterfall, the New River, scenic trails and a blueberry farm.
The children spend mornings feeding goats by hand and gathering eggs from
the camp's chickens. Two oxen, a few llama, sheep and dogs also make their
Many meals are fixed with food picked from the camp garden or found growing
``We try to be as self-sufficient as possible,'' Winter said.
Winter, who holds a degree in social work from Cornell University, has
worked with children and adults with special needs for more than 18 years.
holds a degree in theology and psychology from Wells College, led women's
wilderness retreats in New York. They've home-schooled their children for
more than 14
The couple said it's been challenging to get the camp up and running. They
own the land the camp is on and have lived at the camp site for a year. So
far, they've run
the camp without pay and have relied on credit cards for their personal
They hope to get more donations so the camp can buy a larger van and hire
more counselors to accommodate larger groups. Now, the camp can only handle six
children at a time.
Winter and Wadsworth hope one day to expand the program to include
families. They also envision the camp becoming a model for similar programs
``There are fringe adults, but there no fringe children,'' Winter said.
``We hope to catch a bunch of them and show them other sides to life and
show people across the
country it works.''
On the Net:
Scottie's Place: http://www.scottiesplace.org/
National Alliance to End Homelessness:
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