Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 18, 2011

Officials ready for count of homeless

Attention set on Greenup, Elliott, Lawrence counties

RUSSELL — Kentucky is gearing up for its annual count of homeless people Jan. 27, and local coordinators are paying particular attention to Greenup, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence counties.

The Point-In-Time Count is an annual survey government and nonprofit agencies use to measure the need for services, and to request funding so they can provide services.

“It helps the state determine funding needs to help families who are struggling to obtain housing,” said Diva Justice, director of the Healthy Communities Initiative at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

This year, surveyors in northeast Kentucky are trying to get more complete and accurate numbers from counties that are mostly rural and don’t have homeless shelters, Justice said. The survey also will include the “precariously housed,” those who are on the verge of losing their homes.

Homeless people in northeast Kentucky often are less visible because they don’t live on the street or in shelters, according to Justice. Instead, they double up with relatives or “couch-surf” in their friends’ homes, she said. “Some are one step away from being on the streets.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a homeless person as one who is sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelters, or living in transitional housing following time on the streets.

To get a more complete and accurate count, coordinators are looking for volunteers to help in Greenup, Carter and Lawrence counties. A training session will be Friday at the Bellefonte Center at OLBH.

Potential volunteers should contact Justice at (606) 833-3106 or by e-mail at diva_justice@bshsi.org.

The count has been a good resource for writing grant applications, said Tammy Steele, who coordinates the homeless program in the Greenup County School District. It doesn’t take names but it gathers information on crime records, domestic violence, eviction issues and utility troubles, among others.

Common problems with the homeless include lack of proper identification and lingering utility debts, which make it virtually impossible to rent new quarters, Steele said.

The numbers have gone up every year of the count, Steele said. In part, the jump results from the count itself becoming more accurate, but Steele believes the homeless population is growing.

The same trend is evident in Boyd County, said Debbie Sivis, director of the Shelter of Hope, which provides transitional housing in Ashland. Last year in Boyd County, the count showed 67 homeless people, 28 of them children.

Statewide, 6,623 homeless people were identified in 2010. Of those, 63 had HIV/AIDS, 68 were unaccompanied minors, 564 were veterans, 695 were chronically homeless, 1,071 were domestic violence victims, 1,460 were severely mentally ill and 2,032 were chronic substance abusers.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com

or (606) 326-2652.

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