COVINGTON, Ky. — After years of searching for a permanent location, the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky officially broke ground Tuesday on a new home to serve people experiencing homelessness.
The building at 436 W. 13th Street in Covington will be expanded as part of a $2 million renovation and build-out that Executive Director Kim Webb said she hopes will be complete before next winter.
Webb noted that it was about this time last year that Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann called and told her he had the keys for the property that would become the nonprofit’s new location.
“They’re the littlest keys ever,” Webb said, holding them up at a news conference Tuesday. “And these keys, for the first time, I realized the impact of what it’s like when a guest comes to us, and we help them get housing, and they show me their keys in their hands, and I take pictures. That sense of accomplishment – that sense that we’ve found our forever.”
The new location will replace the Emergency Shelter’s current facility on Scott Boulevard, where it has been located since 2008. The current location has a maximum capacity of 32 for winter shelter operations, which has been reduced to 24 this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing.
The new facility will have 68 beds, Webb said, with 16 reserved for women and 52 for men. It also will have handicapped-accessible toilets and showers, which is increasingly important as the number of older adults experiencing homelessness continues to grow.
In addition to the winter shelter program, the new facility will have a daytime engagement center open all year long so that people who are homeless can connect with mental health services and workforce development help.
People who are homeless also will have a place where they can shower and do their own laundry, even if they aren’t staying at the shelter, Webb said.
Knochelmann called the new location “a huge first step.”
“We know that it matters to these individuals to give them a chance,” he said. “This is what happens when communities work together.”
Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce CEO Brent Cooper said the community must work together to solve the problems of poverty, a lack of affordable housing and homelessness.
“And how we do that says a lot about us as a community,” Cooper added.
The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky still is working to raise the rest of the money it needs to complete its new location. A capital campaign launched in 2013 raised about $1 million, she said, but the nonprofit needs about twice that much to complete the new facility.
“Homelessness is a community problem. It takes a community solution, and this is part of that first-step community solution,” Webb said. “There were times when I doubted. But just like we ask our guests to keep hoping and keep the faith, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve kept hoping, and we’ve kept the faith.”
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.