COVINGTON, Ky. — When the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky opened its doors on Scott Boulevard in 2008, the organization hoped the small, white-bricked building would be a temporary home. By Wednesday night, it was still there, with 75 beds, three bathrooms and one shower to serve a growing population of men and women without anywhere else to stay.
“We take (guests) until we’re out of floor space in the building,” executive director Kim Webb said. “We do what we can do. Is this a comfortable place for the number of beds we have? Not really.”
According to Webb, the low-barrier shelter — “our mission is to not ask a lot of questions at the door” — helped 589 adults, providing a cumulative 12,000 nights of sheltering, in 2018. She wants a new location that could provide them and others with a more comfortable experience, and the shelter has had enough money to purchase one since 2013.
Finding owners willing to sell has been the real challenge.
“When you think of an emergency shelter, your immediate reaction is, ‘Not in my backyard,’” she said. “‘We love what you do. There’s a need for it. We just don’t want this in our neighborhood.’”
Nathaniel Posey, who said he had been homeless for nearly six years, is familiar with those reactions and others, many less sympathetic.
“You see ‘homeless’ and you think, maybe, the bums I used to see when I was a kid in school,” he said. “The big shoes with holes in them. The big red tie and the big nose. It’s not that comical, and there’s a need for help.”
Finding a safe place to sleep and kind people with whom to interact is crucial for Posey and others like him, he said, particularly in weather like the kind Northern Kentucky experienced Saturday.
“They’re appreciative to have a warm place to lay their head at night, especially with the last few days being any indication,” he said. “The alternative is pretty bleak.”
Webb said the shelter has weathered several near-misses in its search for a better location. While its staff members continue to search for a permanent home, they focus on upgrades to the Scott Boulevard building. Installing a tankless water heater was a “game-changer,” Webb said.
“These are people,” she said. “They have family, friends; they have hearts; they have emotions, feelings. Our mission is to provide them some dignified accommodations.”