PARK HILLS, Ky. – This winter has been brutal, especially for those who are homeless.
The 2nd annual Homeless to Hopeful event, held Friday evening, is intended to raise awareness of homelessness in Northern Kentucky. The event is intended to raise money for a new location to house the rising number of homeless in the region.
"Homeless to Hopeful is an educational event to help us understand homelessness in our local Northern Kentucky community. The common experience of a person who is homeless is loss of basic human needs and loss of social/family support. A homeless person is a fellow human being in great need," said Rachael Winters, director of The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky.
The Emergency Shelter of NKY has sheltered close to 400 adults already this winter and Family Promise of NKY, which shelters families, has been full every night.
Statistics at the cold shelter indicate an 18 percent increase in homelessness.
In Northern Kentucky, the homeless count for 2013 was:
-Boone County- 24
-Kenton County- 255
-Campbell County- 124
The growing number of homeless isn’t the only cause for the move.
As Gateway Community and Technical College continues to expand Covington, it has started buying buildings throughout Covington, including the ESNKY's current building, at 634 Scott Blvd., just a block away from its main campus.
The community college will transform that block — which includes The Point, Dressman Center and the shelter— into a new Science and Allied Health Center, student center and parking that school officials hope will ultimately serve 5,000 students — 3,500 more than currently.
Kenton County owns the building and the City of Covington owns the parking lot that the shelter has been renting since 2008 at no charge but it is now selling it to Gateway.
"[The shelter will] receive full benefit of sale of building, and give them a leg up in finding a new location," said Kenton County Commissioner Kris Knochelmann.
Gateway President Dr. Edward Hughes is excited to partner with the shelter, which already offers free GED classes to any Kentucky resident, including those who reside at the shelter.
“Our mission is to increase access and make the region vital. We’ve got to be where the population is,” he said. “We have ‘community’ in our name and that’s as important as ‘college’ in our name.”
The move isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Winters said, since the shelter has outgrown its current one-story 5,000-square-foot facility.
Every year the number of residents increase.
The shelter housed 439 individuals in 2012, a 12 percent increase from 2011.
“We need a new building. We’re serving too many people,” she said.
The shelter’s summer program has also expanded, helping 84 homeless people in 2013, graduating 38 into permanent housing.
The shelter must move by the summer.
“As long as we can serve our mission, I don’t give rat’s butt where we go,” said Winters.
The ESNKY's Board of Directors announced a capital campaign last year with a goal of raising about $1 million, which will allow it to buy and renovate a building.
Friday's event is intended to raise money to offset the building cost.
Below, is a 2010 audio slideshow documentary, “Voices from the Cold,” by Jessica Noll, WCPO Northern Kentucky reporter. She spent three months interviewing and photographing guests at the Emergency Cold Shelter of Northern Kentucky. This project will be featured at the Homeless to Hopeful event, along with two other videos.
Ed lost the love of his life, then he lost everything. Jessica Noll | WCPO
Rachael Winters takes care of her guests, giving them a warm bed and a healthy dose of hope. Jessica Noll | WCPO
Lesley battles an addiction, ends up homeless. Jessica Noll | WCPO
Sherry and Buzz were living paycheck to paycheck when they found themselves living in a truck. Jessica Noll | WCPO