Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 19, 2013

Joint effort focuses on needs of homeless

Lana Bellamy
CNHI News Service

ASHLAND — Living without a home, whether it be by choice or circumstance, is a reality for many people and families in the Ashland area.

Although all homeless people experience the same types of stress and loss, each case requires different types of attention and assistance. That is where The Neighborhood comes in.

The Neighborhood is a conglomeration of services, like clothing donors, community kitchens, shelters, personal hygiene suppliers, etc., that are provided especially for those who do not have current means of supporting themselves or their families.

The 2013 results of the K-Count, a statistical account of homeless Kentuckians, were announced by the Kentucky Housing Corporation, revealing on Jan. 30, there were as many as 2,392 homeless men, women and children.

This figure has been steadily declining since 2008 when 4,027 homeless were documented.

Community Assistance and Referral Services, a non-profit organization, is the central support system for The Neighborhood in Ashland, where they identify, coordinate and mobilize different resources for individuals and families in emergency crises.

The formation of CAReS as a hub for social services was initiated as part of the City of Ashland Ten Year Plan to Minimize Homelessness in 1999.

As a referral service, CAReS can help point homeless individuals to proper shelters, depending on their particular case, whether it be Safe Harbor for those fleeing domestic violence, Shelter of Hope for transitional housing or the Salvation Army for emergency shelter.

Each of these three shelters provide emergency shelter, up to 90 days of stay, but each provider offers  specialized services to better fit the needs of their occupants. Despite the fact homelessness can be attributed to general poverty, all cases are not so cut and dry.

Shelter of Hope

Shelter of Hope is on Carter Avenue, in the same vicinity as The Neighborhood and the Salvation Army.

There, those seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing can apply to stay for different durations, with emergency beds available for up to 90 days and transitional apartments up to two years.

Shelter of Hope currently has 10 fully-furnished units for both emergency and transitional housing, which are currently at capacity. In some instances occupants may stay longer than the policy mandates, depending on their circumstances.

Executive Director Debbie Sivis said the most common cases of extended stays occur in transitional when landlords cooperating with the agency fail inspections or encounter delays in preparing the houses for those moving out of the shelter.

Other services from Shelter of Hope include case management, financial counseling, rent and deposit assistance for those moving into homes and provide each person or family with basic food and toiletry items.

They recently instituted a new residency policy, requiring all those applying for shelter to be from either Greenup or Boyd County.

“Sometimes we get requests from people using resources in other counties or just desperate to find anywhere to seek shelter,” Sivis said. “We just had someone apply to live here from Chicago. But we realize we can’t allow them to take away from the people we originally intended to serve.”

Therefore the new policy was enacted this August, she said.

Increasing needs

Sivis said the need for housing becomes greater each year, due to increased awareness, greater outreach and area job loss. But at Shelter of Hope, resources are limited beyond.

“We have little means of expanding our campus,” Sivis said about the small building located a few feet off Winchester Avenue.

The shelter’s $165,000 budget survives mostly on grants and donations, given that they are a non-profit organization.

CAReS realizes the limits of Shelter of Hope and, though they don’t discourage applying for their waiting list, they also refer the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless, to the Salvation Army emergency shelter.

Helping hands

At the Salvation Army, they not only provide emergency shelter, but also use their ministerial foundation to offer counseling in their services.

With greater capacity and a larger campus, they are able to service a greater quantity of individuals with immediate and temporary basic needs.

“We don’t just hand out a blanket and a cup of coffee to a needy person. We want to give them a hand up,” Capt. Patrick Richmond said in a blog post on the Salvation Army website.

Sivis said Shelter of Hope and the Salvation Army collaborate with each other in that if they have people on the waiting list needing emergency housing, they refer them to the Salvation Army shelter, or if the Salvation Army has occupants who need extended stays in transitional, they suggest applying to Shelter of Hope.

If any of the occupants in Shelter of Hope or Salvation Army are seeking shelter from domestic violence, both shelters point toward Safe Harbor housing in the old tuberculosis hospital near Pathways.

Ann Perkins, founder of Safe Harbor in 1983 and creator of the permanent housing units Harbor Hill, has expanded Safe Harbor housing services from the old nurse’s dormitory sleeping around 20 people daily, to occupying the entire hospital, expanding back into the old dormitory and filling up another newly renovated section of the hospital with permanent apartments.

The old nurse’s dormitory is currently under construction, but Perkins said once it is completed, they will sleep an additional 20.

On a daily basis, Perkins said Safe Harbor houses up to 150 women and children, and occasionally men who are also fleeing domestic violence.

Counseling aid

The goal of Safe Harbor is to not only help victims acquire a secure housing situation, but to also help counsel them in dealing with the domestic violence mentally and emotionally, she said.

Security for Safe Harbor is a vital part of its services, with cameras littering the entire hillside and locked entry to all facility openings.

Perkins said they rarely have perpetrators attempt to break in, but are always aware, which is why they have chosen to operate 24/7.

The Safe Harbor budget is around $1 million each year, with grant funding supplying at least one-third of the total amount.

Perkins said if they have occupants requesting shelter who have a secure support system or are not victims of domestic abuse, they are forced to recommend them to seek out Shelter of Hope or the Salvation Army.

“Say, our dream came true and we completely eradicated domestic violence here in Kentucky, I would take anyone in, but right now I just can’t. We just don’t have the means,” she said, referring to being at full-capacity with abuse victims while also undergoing renovation construction.

The collaborative system known as The Neighborhood in Ashland has become the watering hole for resources to assist local homeless individuals and families, as well as those who are at risk of being homeless.

“People get the wrong idea about those who are homeless and say they’re violent or mentally ill or dirty, but we service lawyers, doctors, people like me and you,” Perkins said. “You don’t realize that all it takes is suddenly losing your home or your income and then you’re out on the streets. We are all here for anyone who needs help, regardless of the situation.”

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.