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Strained emergency shelters turning away those seeking refuge

It has been two weeks since the United States Supreme Court overturned the extension of a nationwide moratorium on rental evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, at least one area homeless shelter has reported an uptick in people seeking temporary housing during an already taxing time.

"It is devastating to watch people sit across the street from this building and not be able to access services because we don't have a bed available," said Kim Webb, Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky executive director.

RELATED: Are you a Kentucky tenant behind in rent or utilities? This fund could help

Webb said she and other emergency shelter staff had turned people away since opening its doors this summer ... an unusual step for the historically winter-only shelter.

"We're starting to see more people sleeping in cars in our parking lot, which is something we haven't seen in a long time," Webb said.

She attributed the recent rise in demand to the effects of COVID, which includes limiting the shelter's capacity due to the pandemic.

The shelter is currently alternating guests every other night to give more people access to its services.

According to Stacey Burge, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati president and CEO, the situation is similar for shelters across the river in Ohio.

"At any given time, we can take about half the people who are calling," Burge said. "And so that was a challenge that already existed before the pandemic."

RELATED: Hamilton County officials offer help to families facing eviction

She said it is too early to tell how lifting the eviction ban had impacted local shelters because shelters were already turning people away before the Supreme Court overturned the moratorium on evictions.

"I believe we will see more people, but people did not quit becoming homeless during the pandemic," Burge said.

She added that adding more beds or space in shelters is not the solution to the growing problems for those without homes.

The answer, Burge said, is more affordable housing.

Josh Spring, executive director for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, agreed.

"Before the pandemic, we had an extreme lack of affordable housing," Spring said. "If so much of your income is already going to pay the rent or pay the mortgage, any loss can quickly mean that you just simply can't keep up."

A recent census survey found that one in four Kentucky respondents was behind on rent in August. About one in 10 Ohioans said the same.

Webb hopes the current housing crisis becomes a catalyst for change.

"It takes political will or a catastrophic event to really move the needle on homelessness in a community," Webb said. "We ended up with political will, and now we have a pandemic."

For renters at risk for eviction in Kentucky, they can find resources to help at In addition, Kentucky homeowners behind on their mortgages can find helpful tools at

In Hamilton County, people can find rental assistance at

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