CINCINNATI – There was no shortage of beds in shelters in the frigid pre-dawn hours when Ken Martin died this week, said the head of local agencies working on behalf of the city's homeless.
The problem is getting people to use them.
“There was no need for Mr. Martin to be out on the street,” said Kevin Finn, President of Strategies to End Homelessness. “There was a facility here that was ready to take him in - willing to take him in.”
There has been a public outcry demanding more help for people experiencing homelessness since Martin was found dead at the Metro bus stop on Government Square about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday. But more beds may not be the catch-all solution.
Some people won't go to a shelter, Finn said.
"If they are in active substance abuse or have a mental illness that makes them feel anxious or paranoid, they might decide to stay outside," Finn said. "We can't make them come in.
“Convincing them to come inside is sort of a separate issue. The unfortunate reality of what happened this week is that we had space for Mr. Martin to come into. For reasons we don’t know, he didn’t come in.”
Finn said 18 homeless shelters operate in Hamilton County and Northern Kentucky. The Winter Shelter at 410 Gest Street has room for 200 beds, he said. More than 100 beds were open the night of Martin’s death.
That’s true most nights, Finn said.
“In the three winters it’s been open, it’s never gone above 160. There’s never been fewer than 40 empty shelter beds available during the winter,” Finn said.
“What the Winter Shelter means is that there’s always a bed available for somebody who wants to come out of the cold.”
The Winter Shelter's location in Queensgate is about 1 mile from the bus station. We asked Finn how the city’s homeless population can get to the shelter.
He said police and Downtown Cincinnati Ambassadors will provide transportation.
If someone you know needs a bed, call the Cincinnati Shelter Hotline at (513) 381-SAFE.