Tuesday, February 10, 2004

State gets grant for homeless

Covington to share in money

Staff and wire reports

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Covington agencies serving homeless people will share in more than $14 million that the federal government is giving Kentucky to fund shelters and self-help services for the homeless, Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced Monday.

The money was part of nearly $1.3 billion in nationwide grants for the homeless from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

chart The bulk of Kentucky's grants, $12.2 million, is to be divided among the state and three cities - Louisville, Lexington and Covington. It would provide transitional and permanent housing, job training, health care, counseling and child care. Covington's share of the federal money is $688,110.

The remaining money, earmarked for emergency shelters, was awarded to Louisville, Lexington and the state government.

Barry Grossheim, who works with the Northern Kentucky Housing and Homeless Coalition, could not be reached Monday for comment on how Covington's homeless grants will be used.

For years, the Welcome House social service agency in Covington has operated a night-time shelter for women and children. Fairhaven Rescue Mission in Covington also offers 25 beds, including 11 for men enrolled in the agency's substance abuse program. An emergency cold shelter on Covington's Eastside that can hold up to 33 people has averaged about 30 a night when temperatures have dipped below freezing this winter. That shelter, which is filled mostly with men, re-opened for the season two months ago.

Homeless issues have been in the forefront in Covington since April 2002. That is when a series of city-authorized sweeps cleared homeless camps on west Covington's Ohio River bank that city officials described as a health hazard and an eyesore. Eight homeless people filed suit and recently reached a monetary out-of-court settlement with the city.

In July 2002, Covington City Commission approved a law that forbids camping in city parks and along city-owned riverbanks. City officials, citing campfires and piles of bottles in riverfront homeless camps, described the setting as a health and safety risk. Advocates argued it was unfair to penalize homeless people when there weren't enough shelter beds in Northern Kentucky.Lisa Minton said a $166,667 grant to Chrysalis House in Lexington would keep alive transitional housing for women.

Chrysalis House helps pay rent for women who were homeless or were released from prison with nowhere to go. As the women find jobs, Chrysalis House pays less of the rent. Once they find permanent housing, others in need take their place.

"This helps them get a leg up into being able to stay on the right path," Minton said at the Capitol. Louisville was awarded just more than $5 million for housing and self-help services. State government was awarded $4.9 million to distribute to homeless programs around the state. Lexington would get more than $1.6 million and Covington $688,110. Most of the money would go directly to organizations serving the homeless.

Meanwhile, the state was awarded $1.3 million for emergency shelters. In addition, Louisville was awarded $528,207 and Lexington $94,412.

Fletcher said more than 10,000 people stayed in homeless shelters last year in Louisville. He said more than 1,000 people need shelter in Lexington on a typical night.

It's a plight Fletcher said he once voluntarily experienced as a congressman, spending 24 hours homeless with a group of people in Lexington. Fletcher said each was given only a blanket for warmth on a cold night.

"You kind of got a different perspective of what it's like to have no place to lay your head," he said.

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