COVINGTON, Ky. — Millions will be dedicated to easing homelessness in six Northern Kentucky cities, but before any plans move forward, community leaders are asking residents to weigh in on problems and solutions.
To address the need for homelessness assistance and supportive services across the country, Congress appropriated $5 billion in ARP funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s existing HOME Investment Partnerships Act (HOME). On September 22, 2021, the City of Covington was awarded $2,044,421.
Those funds will be used on efforts to address and prevent homelessness in the six cities of Kenton and Campbell counties. Known as the Northern Kentucky HOME Consortium, those cities are Covington, Newport, Erlanger, Ludlow, Bellevue and Dayton.
The City of Covington is the lead entity for the Northern Kentucky HOME Consortium.
There are already some ideas up for consideration — including shelter diversion programs, eviction diversion, and mental health and substance abuse services.
Kim Webb, executive director of the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, believes the biggest need is more affordable housing.
"You lose your job and then you can no longer afford to live, and then I think it all just spirals down," she said. "We need housing that's affordable based on the wages that people are earning or based on the income that they have."
ESNKY opened its doors for the first time in the winter of 2008 as the region’s only cold-weather shelter for adults. In February 2022, it opened its doors to a brand-new state-of-the-art facility with 68 beds, a Daytime Navigation Center for showers, laundry, cell phone charging stations, an onsite medical clinic and community partner rooms.
Webb said anyone 18 or older in need is welcome to come by and with so many in the community facing different challenges such as unemployment or underemployment, disabilities, domestic violence, serious mental illness and substance abuse, her shelter regularly reaches capacity.
"We see every reason that someone is going to visit a shelter but for the reason for why people stay in a shelter, I think ithe question is — once you're in the door how do you get out of the door?" Webb said.
2022 data shows 265 people experienced homelessness in Northern Kentucky. That number is based on a K-Count, the Kentucky point-in-time count that documents the number of people experiencing homelessness. The figures do not necessarily reflect the total homeless population, but rather the number of sheltered and unsheltered people observed at the time of the count.
In Campbell County, on the night of the annual point-in-time count, 75 people were experiencing literal homelessness while 47 were unsheltered. 28 people were in an emergency shelter, 10 of them were younger than 18.
There were 190 people experiencing literal homelessness in Kenton County while 72 people were unsheltered. One hundred and fourteen people were in an emergency shelter, 23 were younger than 18.
Before any plan is finalized, community leaders are welcoming public input. You can send comments or suggestions to Covington's Federal Grants Manager at [email protected] or call (859) 292-2147. Those will be accepted until the end of the day on March 26.
The plan will then likely go to the Covington Board of Commissioners for review on March 28.