Kentucky’s homeless population and those at risk of homelessness can be hard to find.
Beginning at midnight, volunteers and workers will spread out across the state in attempt to get a one-day count of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the next 14 days.
K-Count, as the effort is called, is a 24-hour snapshot of who is homeless in Kentucky and where. Getting an accurate count, officials say, is crucial to securing funds needed to help the homeless.
“It is so hard to count because the homeless are often living in places not meant for habitation,” said Amanda Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Housing Corp., which oversees the count.
She and Polly Lloyd, a research analyst with the KHC, explained the count is crucial to help the state move forward with its 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, first adopted under Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration in 2005, then updated in 2009 and 2012.
“The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They use the findings to determine federal funding for homeless services in the state,” Lloyd said.
“HUD gives us the notice of funding and we ask programs to apply based on need. Each program gives us a needs assessment, and we weigh that out on a scale given to us by HUD as far as granting the program and awarding money,” Palmer said.
The K-Count is the needs assessment and includes demographic information such as whether the homeless person is single or has a family, is a veteran, is mentally ill, is a substance abuser or have has HIV/AIDS.
Kentucky did not do a count of unsheltered homeless in 2012, only those housed inside shelters. In 2011, Boyd County officials recorded 93 homeless individuals, sheltered and nonsheltered, on a single day. Of those, 55 were in emergency housing, 24 in transitional housing and 14 unsheltered. Three were veterans, 18 were chronic substance abusers, 29 were severely mentally ill and 39 were the victims of domestic violence. Boyd recorded no chronically homeless families, but nine chronically homeless individuals.
In the 118 reporting counties statewide, officials counted a total of 2,834 homeless. Of those, 701 were unsheltered, 1,133 were living in emergency housing and 1,000 in transitional housing. There were 160 homeless veterans, 669 individuals with chronic substance abuse problems and 639 with mental illness. There were 568 homeless people attributed to domestic violence.
Debbie Sivis, executive director of the Shelter of Hope, said local officials expect the numbers to go up from the last count and are hopeful they will.
“The hard part is capturing the numbers,” she said. “We know there are more homeless than the K-Count captures. Our hope is to capture as many as possible. Then eventually, we hope to see the numbers go down because of services provided — not because we couldn’t capture them.”
Sivis said a number of agencies in Ashland, along with Boyd and Greenup counties, will participate and report their numbers to the KHC, including Safe Harbor, Shelter of Hope and the Salvation Army. To get a better count this year, volunteers plan to include individuals living in transient hotels, doubling up with friends and family members and those previously homeless who are in jail, but are scheduled to be released within 14 days.
Sivis said officials are looking for homeless disabled veterans in need of assistance. There are federal funds available through a partnership with the Veterans Administration and Volunteers of America to house those veterans and their families and provide them with ongoing case management and treatment.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.