Preparing for the Winter Months Ahead: Our Emergency Winter Weather Plan

In cold weather, people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are particularly vulnerable to serious and potentially fatal illnesses and injury. As we approach these colder months, the Lexington-Fayette County Homeless Response System puts together an emergency winter weather response plan to ensure that all community members, regardless of housing, have access to shelter and the appropriate resources.

The Emergency Winter Weather Plan will be activated when measures of extreme temperatures are reached or when other severe weather conditions take place. This occurs any night or day

when the temperature low is expected to fall below 32 degrees fahrenheit. When this happens, the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention (OHPI) will notify local media, provide updates on social media, and notify all organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness that the plan is in effect.

However, people experiencing homelessness may not necessarily know when the plan is activated, what resources are available, or how to access them. When these dangerous weather conditions are present, street outreach teams provide especially critical support in connecting people experiencing homelessness with immediate shelter and resources, as well as stable housing options. While street outreach does take place on streets, teams also seek to make contact with unhoused individuals who are living in encampments, city parks, abandoned buildings, their vehicles, or other unfit living locations. 

Who is eligible for services?

Anyone experiencing homelessness is eligible for shelter or other basic needs under the Emergency Winter Weather Plan. Both emergency day and night centers welcome all eligible people during emergency winter weather, including former participants under suspension for behavioral or programmatic reasons.

There may be exceptions for individuals suspended for violence and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. For more information, contact OHPI at (859) 280-8274 or [email protected].

Where are services offered?

Even if the weather during the day is above freezing, temperatures can fall dramatically at night. Nine partners, listed below, currently offer overnight emergency shelters, with the Community Action Council Winter Weather Overflow offering increased capacity under our winter weather plan.

During the winter months, daytime temperatures can still remain under 32 degrees. We recognize that it is important not to only provide overnight shelter, but places that individuals and families can seek shelter during the day. Seven partners, as listed below, provide daytime options for individuals and families to seek warmth, food, clothing, services, showers, bathrooms, and all other basic needs.

How would someone get to an overnight shelter or day service provider?

Individuals and families without homes often do not have access to personal or reliable transportation. Many people walk miles each day just to access basic needs, and during the colder months, snow, ice, and unsafe road conditions can impede efforts to travel to shelters and service provider locations. 

Due to these factors, LEH community partners will facilitate transportation to shelter. Street Outreach teams can help facilitate referrals and transportation to shelter. The Catholic Action Center will also operate the Compassionate Caravan during extreme cold temperatures. LexTran also offers free rides to shelter via any fixed route when temperatures are below 32 degrees. Ride is only to shelter and may require an individual to transfer depending on where they board. 

If you see or know someone who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Lexington or you come across an encampment, reach out to the CAC at 859-233-4600. They will make contact and work with the client to determine the next best steps. 

However, street outreach does not cover all concerns related to unhoused individuals. If your concern is regarding crime, violence, drug use, or aggressive panhandling, please contact local law enforcement. 

To assist local Street Outreach teams as the winter season approaches, reach out to the CAC to provide donations of winter weather gear, bottled water and packaged snacks, and COVID-19 test kits. CAC’s Street Outreach team has most recently asked for socks and Hope Center staff have also requested donations of face masks. You can also get involved with LEH and support outreach efforts by visiting our website, joining the Continuum of Care, donating to the LEH campaign, or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.