Scott County has become known as one of the fastest growing areas in Kentucky. With that growth, Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington wanted to help address the issues of homelessness and hunger with the start of a homeless committee or task force in 2019.
Along with local non-profits and services, as well as the city and county, the committee works together to address root causes and find solutions, Covington said.
In building the committee, the members met with other similar groups in Lexington and the Northern Kentucky area to help gather an idea of how these actions are being implemented to improve communities.
There are committee members from the school system, library and chamber of commerce, as well as places like Elizabeth’s Village, The Gathering Place, AMEN House and Transform Scott County among several others.
“(Devon Golden, who represents the city on the committee) has been very instrumental,” said Covington.
Golden sits on the board for AMEN House and Habitat for Humanity, as well as serving the city as attorney.
“I certainly have a heart for this population,” Golden said. “It’s a population in need. We’re all seeing that.”
People have been talking about homelessness in the community more than ever, she said.
“In the beginning it was just talking about, what do we have right now and why isn’t it sufficient,” Golden said. “And then this one was the biggest. This was very time consuming, very interesting in many ways, but what’s the root cause of homelessness?”
The committee prefers to refer to homelessness as housing insecurity, she said, “Because not everybody who is homeless is on the street at night. They don’t know where they are going to stay next.”
The committee went through possible reasons as to what may be a cause for housing insecurity, she said.
“The need for training and skills, family conflict, generational poverty, mental health. We kind of just went through that list of why somebody would be homeless,” she said. “People generally don’t choose to be homeless. Something has happened in their life. There has been some kind of hardship.”
Multiple causes for homelessness need to be addressed, said Covington. But, one root cause that sticks out is affordable housing.
“Everybody wants to have a place to put their head down,” he said.
And the places that do offer affordable housing are on “huge waitlists,” Golden said.
To help address the affordable housing issues, Golden says they are in talks with low income housing developers about coming to Georgetown.
“For the senior population, people don’t realize seniors really can get in a position where, if they don’t have affordable housing, they don’t have food,” she said. “The issues spiral. Especially if their Medicare plan requires additional out of pocket.”
With the city’s growth not all rent can be $1,000 a month or a high mortgage payment, Golden said. “We (have got to) have opportunities for folks who really can’t afford that.”
With cold temperatures beginning to hit the commonwealth, the committee has a plan for a cold weather emergency, or “white flag shelter.”
“We are close to being able to make an announcement,” Covington said. Those looking for shelter in the cold months will have a place here instead of having to go to Lexington, he said.
James Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.