Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) has proposed a study to determine how the recession is impacting the state’s homeless population, including the possible use of tents for those turned away from crowded shelters.

Introduced last week, H. 3801 would require a study of the number of homeless in the state and “assess the availability and capacities of homeless shelters in each county, and determine the feasibility of using tent-like temporary shelters to be obtained with state funds to house on a short-term basis persons who would otherwise be turned away.”

Gilliard says he’s heard terrible stories of people turned away from shelters and that it can only get worse as the recession continues.

“We need to see if we’re prepared to handle the onslaught of people,” he says of the study, which would be completed in January, if approved by the legislature.

Solid numbers on the homeless population and their needs could help in lobbying for more funding in Columbia and Washington to expand and renovate shelters, Gilliard says. The tents he’s suggesting would be able to withstand harsh temperatures, particularly through cold winter months, he says.