A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

ESNKY Winter Shelter is now open, numbers keep increasing, volunteers and donations are needed

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

As temperatures plunge, those seeking a warm place to stay overnight can look to the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky (ESNKY) in Covington for refuge.

The ESNKY Winter Shelter opened on November 1 and will remain available to adult men and women who meet its requirements throughout the cold-weather months. ESNKY is located at 634 Scott Blvd in Covington

At last month’s ESNKY Open House, Executive Director Kim Webb said the shelter is nearing capacity in the winter months, but continues to provide its essential services to the community.

“Our numbers just keep growing. In the ’15—16 winter we had 513 individuals, last winter we had 650 individuals that needed at least one night of sheltering,” Webb said. “Last winter we were 5 percent warmer than ’15-16, no physical characteristic of winter – no snow, nothing like that and we had a large increase. I do think heroin and addiction is a part of this, I also think a lot of it’s a lack of affordable housing.”

Web realized that one way to help keep the Shelter below capacity was to provide agency-sponsored outreach in Northern Kentucky.

ESNKY Executive Director Kim Webb, center with operations manager Brittney Kane, left and outreach worker Logan Probst (photos by Mark Hansel).

“I wrote a grant with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to have a part-time agency-sponsored outreach worker and the grant was approved and we were able to hire an outreach worker,” Webb said. “The outreach worker is really designed to keep people out of shelter. They are also designed to build relationships with people living outside and get them into housing, hopefully bypassing shelter.”

There are also people who are experiencing homelessness, but really can’t shelter. Maybe they have a pet that they don’t want to abandon or are a family experiencing homelessness.. That’s the area where the outreach worker, Logan Probst, can provide assistance.

“Her focus, again, is going to be outside along the river and in the neighborhoods of Kenton County trying to identify individuals who need access to services, without hopefully ever having to set foot in a shelter,” Webb said.

Welcome House also located in Covington has received funding from Boone County and another source and it has an outreach going. One of the challenges to helping those experiencing homelessness is to get an accurate determination of how many there are in the region. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a Point in Time Homeless Count every year and Northern Kentucky agencies are active participants.

Members of the Northern Kentucky community attended last month’s open house to learn more about the services the Shelter provides.

Even those who conduct the count, however, say the numbers do not accurately reflect the number of homeless in the region.

“We have this tremendous gap that has not been filled and what we hope we are going to be able to find, is an actual count of who is experiencing homelessness in Northern Kentucky right now” Webb said. “The homeless count is not accurate because you have to see them to count them, so we need to get a better handle on a number. The thing that we’re going to see is that there is a high number that has always been there, we just haven’t been able to find them all or count them.”

On average, a guest sheltered with ESNKY 13 times during the cold weather months last year and if there is a harsh winter, it could overwhelm the shelter and its resources.

“The need for immediate emergency sheltering is so great, I don’t know that we’ll be able to continue to do more than what we are already doing,” Webb said.

To mission of ESNKY is to provide shelter that is life-saving in the winter and life-changing in the summer.

ESNKY opened its doors for the first time in the winter of 2008 as the region’s only cold weather shelter for adults. In the summer of 2010, it began providing shelter during the warmer months for men who are working towards achieving housing, income and improvement of health. We were started by a group of concerned citizens and business owners who wanted to ensure that our most vulnerable population had a place to go to during our coldest weather.

The ESNKY couldn’t exist without the help of dedicated volunteers. Volunteer opportunities are available for individuals or organizations. Those who prefer to contribute resources can click here to donate. In 2014, the ESNKY community of volunteers gave over 5,000 hours of their time to the Shelter.

The purpose of the annual ESNKY open house is to raise awareness about the shelter and its service to the community

“It’s also to educate people that if they see someone experiencing homelessness, they know where they can direct them to us or bring them to us, so we can help,” Webb said.

ESNKY provides shelter for adult men and women age 18 and older, who are Kentucky residents and is on a first-come, first-served basis. When the temperature dips below freezing the Shelter makes every effort not to turn anyone away.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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