COVINGTON, Ky. - After a rough day on the streets, in the bitter cold, there isat least one place that the homeless can come to and leaverefreshed.
They walk in and are greeted by Rachael Winters. They have founda place that they can come in from out of the cold. A warm, clean,safe place to sleep. That’s Winters' primary goal for herguests.
“If they recover [from homelessness] that’sicing,” said the shelter operations manager of her secondarygoal.
It doesn’t matter the time or day. It doesn’t matterthe weather or the temperature. It doesn’t matter if theguest is mentally ill, an alcoholic or high on drugs. The answer isalways the same from Winters. “We have room tonight. We haveplenty of room.”
The Emergency Cold Shelter of Northern Kentucky occupies astorefront that is easily overlooked and seldom talked about inCovington.
Winters, ironically named, said it’s the only emergencyshelter open through March, no matter the temperature.
It’s a chilly, rainy November evening. Already 25 of theshelter’s 32 beds are filled. Winters expects a few morebefore the night is over.
When you walk through the commercial double doors, formerly hometo the health department, the overwhelming fragrance of freshlywashed laundry drying fills the hallway. It’s guests’laundry.
“Rain is sometimes worse than the cold,” Winterssaid of the men and women who walk through the door soaking wet.She offers a shower, clothing, and a hot cup of Joe.
The doors open at 7 p.m. nightly. And to many of its diverseguests, the shelter, which opened in November 2008, feels likehome.
It’s home to men, women, young, old, black, white, newlyand chronically homeless.
The daily itinerary is posted in plain sight for guests toreview. It tells when dinner is, what time the nightly movie willstart, what time is lights out, etc. Guests are offered weeklyhealth checks from nurses, clean clothes, coats, breakfast in themorning, and a clean, freshly made bed.
Tomorrow’s breakfast, Winters said, will be mini muffinsand fruit salad, which was donated. She reaches out to thecommunity via Facebook for food, she said. And within a matter ofhours, days, she said, their pantry is restocked.
“We have the community support,” said Winters, whoas she walks down the hallway, greets her guests by name, askingthem if they need anything. From that community, she also has 22volunteers who help her run the shelter.
There is an entire room dedicated to clothing, shoes, soap,toothpaste and shampoo. Each guest is given a hygiene kit, whichincludes a clean, dry pair of socks—especially important on acold, wet night. On the really cold nights, Winters said, coats aregiven to those who do not have one—in hopes of keeping themwarm once they leave the shelter in the morning.
Just next to the supply room, there is an emergency room forthose who are discharged from St. Elizabeth and bussed or taxiedover to the shelter for the night to recover in a warm bed andplenty of covers.
Police from Newport and Independence have also brought guests tothe shelter on occasion, said Winters. This evening is noexception. Winters receives a phone call from an employee of theSpeedway in Erlanger. The woman on the other line describes a19-year-old woman who came into the gas station with no money andno where to go. The workers thought she could use a place to stayout of the rain. Winters calls the Erlanger Police, who agree topick the young woman up and bring her to the shelter.
“I’ve learned to expect goodness from people,”said Winters. “We have plenty of room,” she tells thepolice sergeant at the other end of the line. She reminds him thatthey are always open for him to bring those in need to theshelter.
Listen to their stories, click on the images to the left to hear their own words. See their faces, click on the image below to view the guests of the Emergency Cold Shelter of Northern Kentucky.
Copyright Kentucky Post