A count of Kentucky’s homeless in January revealed the population is shrinking statewide, but locally the numbers rose, as projected by officials.
The count, conducted on Jan. 30, found 2,392 homeless men, women and children in 118 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, excluding Fayette and Jefferson counties. The count showed a decline of more than 500 homeless statewide since the last count in 2011. At that time, 2,834 homeless were counted by a network of volunteers, social service agencies and nonprofits working with the population. The population of homeless has been declining since 2008 when 4,000 homeless were documented in Kentucky.
In Boyd County, a total of 108 homeless were counted, up from 93 in 2011. Of those, 58 were in emergency shelter, 46 in transitional housing and four were unsheltered. Five were chronically homeless, including three veterans, 29 reported being mentally ill, 12 reported chronic drug use and 38 were the victims of domestic violence.
Debbie Sivis, executive director of the Shelter of Hope, said in January local officials expected to see a rise in the number of homeless from 2011’s count.
She accounted for the rise in this year’s count to better methods of counting. “We know there are even more out there,” she added.
The homeless count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses the findings to determine federal funding for homeless services in the state.
Amanda Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Housing Corp. which oversees the count, said officials attribute the drop statewide to the success of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program called Kentucky’s Housing and Emergency Assistance Reaching the Homeless of KY HEARTH. During the three years it existed, 21,473 were assisted with either homelessness prevention or homeless assistance. Eighty-two percent of these individuals moved into permanent housing, according to officials.
In Boyd County, Sivis said, more than 200 individuals and families were housed as part of the KY HEARTH program. The program was so successful that many aspects of it have been implemented by HUD into the Emergency Shelter Grant program now called the Emergency Solutions Grant.
The numbers of homeless revealed in 2013’s count show much work remains, said officials.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing basically,” said Sivis. “Not only do we need to get them in housing, but we have to continue the services so they stay in house — getting them jobs, meeting their health care needs, transportation and housing,” she said. “When you think you’ve solved one problem, you have to think about the other ones that keep people from being housed. There are lot of them,” Sivis added.
The Shelter of Hope is sponsoring the Harley for the Homeless benefit ride this weekend.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org