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Volunteers Brave Cold to Count Kentucky's Homeless

More than 4,000 people were found to be without a home during a 2017 count of Kentucky's homeless. (Pixabay)
More than 4,000 people were found to be without a home during a 2017 count of Kentucky's homeless. (Pixabay)
January 25, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Over the next week, folks across the state will get a better sense of how some of Kentucky's less fortunate are living.

One January day each year, volunteers fan out for a Point-in-Time count of Kentuckians who are living on the streets, in emergency shelters and other temporary housing programs.

Louisville's count is Thursday, and Natalie Harris, executive director of Coalition for the Homeless, says her group expects more than 300 people to brave the frigid weather and assist with the survey.

"I hear a lot of people that say they got a lot out of it just being able to go out in the streets and see the conditions that some people live in, and it kind of inspires them to want to do more as volunteers in the community,” she states. “So we hope that's the case."

The counts are required by the federal government to help determine funding.

Harris says it is a key part of making sure that the Coalition for the Homeless is reaching the right people in its efforts.

Lexington's count was Wednesday, and the remainder of the state will be surveyed on Jan. 31.

The total homeless counted in all of Kentucky in 2017 was just over 4,000 people, about 1,000 of whom were in the Louisville area.

Harris says there has been a steady decrease over the past five years.

"A lot of that is due to the economy,” she states. “As more people are able to get better paying jobs, you see less people who are homeless, but there still are a group of people who struggle with employment or struggle with addiction so that they can't get employed at that time."

Harris says Louisville receives about $9 million in federal funds each year to address homelessness.

She says her group uses the funding primarily to assist the chronically homeless – meaning those without a home for longer than a year, or multiple times over three years.

"That funding is predominantly used to provide permanent housing that also has services tied to it so that people will move into housing, stabilize, and be able to be part of the community because they are now in their own place," she explains.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded more than $19 million to support 105 homeless housing and service programs in Kentucky.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY