Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 25, 2013

Peeking into another world

Event gives taste of homeless daily life

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — There was a chill in the air late Friday night with only a burning trash can providing any warmth.

Several were gathered around it, rubbing their hands together while staring an almost blank stare at the flames coming up.

Welcome to the world of the homeless.

In a few hours, those who came out to support the Shelter of Hope’s “Night Without a Home” would be going back to the comfort of their warm homes. The idea of the four-hour event — participants were there from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. — was to give them a small taste of what the homeless deal with on a daily basis.

“This really isn’t even that cold,” said Debbie Sivis, the executive director of the Shelter of Hope and someone who deals with the homeless every day. “Last year when we did this it was soooo cold! When we first started, we stayed until 6 in the morning. We were freezing. We back it off until 2 a.m. but it still makes the point.”

Youth groups and others were huddled on the parking lot behind Miller’s Funeral Home with blankets and winter coats even with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees. Also, the Salvation Army provided coffee and hot chocolate for anybody who wanted it.

The homeless must often deal with the elements without warm blankets, coats and certainly without a warm drink.

Sivis said the “Night Without a Home” event heightens awareness about a problem that seemingly has no good solution.

They had a candlelight vigil at midnight and the group “Going the Distance” provided some entertainment. Several local organizations had speakers there to talk about the homeless situation in the area and what can be done about it.

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.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.