In Lexington, 1 in 600 people experience homelessness at some point in their lives (Lex End Homelessness Annual Homelessness Assessment Reports). While having somewhere to live is an essential need, there are a range of structural reasons that make it difficult for people to have safe and secure housing like unemployment, stagnant wages, food insecurity, child care costs, and unsafe domestic situations. To understand how to best create and implement a system that will end and prevent homelessness for all, Lex End Homelessness’s first goal is to understand how homelessness occurs and what causes prevent people from being housed.
Every year in early January, Lex End Homelessness partners conduct a LexCount to monitor the homeless situation in Fayette County. The LexCount provides important information about progress towards five-year strategic plan to reduce and effectively end homelessness and enhance affordable housing in Fayette County. The LexCount also provides updated data about what resources and services are most critical for people experiencing homelessness in the Fayette County community. Though the LexCount data shows that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Fayette County decreased from 1,544 in 2014, to 689 in 2020 (Lexington Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention), significant barriers still exist to ending homelessness entirely, both in Lexington and beyond.
First, finding the way around a city system to find housing resources can be frustrating and very confusing. Difficulties knowing where to go, how to get there, what eligibility criteria may be in place, and what steps to take next are all reasons why people experiencing homelessness might not find current systems to be effective or helpful. Because all of the organizations — private sector, nonprofit, governmental, and more — working in homelessness intervention often operate separately from one other, those working in public services may not have complete information about the resources available to those in need (Partnership for Strong Communities). With all of these barriers, unhoused individuals may face difficulties accessing assistance in a timely manner.
Additionally, there is no one size fits all solution for someone experiencing homelessness. Often, agencies may not have all the resources needed to give individual support to a person whose mix of circumstances led to them not having a home . Public service organizations may only focus on the immediate problem — a lack of housing — without being able to address other considerations (Homeless Hub). For example, having a serious mental illness (SMI), substance abuse disorder or addiction, or an unsafe living situation due to domestic violence must all factor into decisions about appropriate next steps.
Additionally, many plans for ending homelessness focus on temporary solutions, not larger structural change that would remove the barriers to housing. Providing someone with housing, for example, is not a long-term solution if they cannot afford to continue to support themselves. According to a recent report on local housing costs in Lexington, rents have increased 4.6% over the month of July, and have increased sharply by 13.3% in comparison to the same time in 2020 (Apartment List). In Fayette County, the living wage (determined by average costs to live to stay above the poverty line) for a single-adult household is USD $13.22, though this number increases by household size (Living Wage Calculator). However, this number is dramatically higher than the minimum wage of only USD $7.25 (Minimum-Wage). Because the living wage is increasing without similar growth in the wages, it is extremely difficult for individuals to ensure stable housing for themselves and their families. Policy changes that strive for economic security for all are a necessity for changing local and state approaches to ending homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness).
Adrian Wallace, CEO of Bishop and Chase Brand Management, member of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention board, and chair of the Advocacy and Issues committee, understands the systemic approach necessary to ending homelessness. “After being born and raised in Lexington, I see far too many people who struggle with housing, educational issues, and poverty. It is crucial that we do this work to not only increase affordable housing, but to effectively end homelessness in our city,” he shares.
Lex End Homelessness (LEH) knows, from working with our partners and our community members, that these obstacles need to be addressed to create a system that can end and prevent homelessness. Through LEH’s Housing Crisis Response System, all community resources, partners, experts, and initiatives in our Continuum of Care (CoC) are now tied together so that any unhoused individual can access the support they need. Finally, with a “no wrong door” policy, LEH ensures that every individual will receive comprehensive information and a holistic care plan.
In August of 2021, Lex End Homelessness is launching our data dashboard with updated homelessness data in Lexington. With this information, readers can access community reports, explore our community’s progress toward ending homelessness, and learn about what kinds of barriers need to be overcome.
Any organization that provides direct services, advocates, interacts with, or otherwise has any contact with those experiencing homelessness in Lexington is encouraged to join the movement and the CoC.
To join, contact Jeff Herron, LEH Continuum of Care Coordinator, at [email protected].
To help us scale up our effective efforts to end homeleness, donate.
To continue to learn more about Lex End Homelessness and the Continuum of Care bookmark the LEH website at: lexendhomelessness.com. You can also follow LEH on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
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