A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington ‘Uniform Standards’ shelter ordinance passes; Smith calls for conversion therapy ordinance

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

For Mayor Joseph U. Meyer, 10 months is long enough.

That’s how long the city has been working with area agencies to fine-tune its “Uniform Standards” ordinance for shelters. Last night, in their regularly-scheduled legislative meeting, commissioners heard the second reading of the ordinance, which will create a uniform set of standards for shelters “providing temporary housing in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of clients, staff and the Covington community.”

The commission then voted 4-1 to adopt the ordinance, with Commissioner Denny Bowman voting against.

“We’ve been working on this thing since April of last year,” Mayor Meyer said. “We feel it’s time to put this to rest and move on.”

The Mayor noted, as did commissioners and some agency leaders, how cooperation with those leaders made the ordinance better. 

“This is exactly what government is supposed to be,” said Commissioner Tim Downing.

Cameron Parker, of the Fairhaven Rescue Mission on Pike Street, noted that they expressed several reservations about the ordinance, but worked with the city over the past few weeks to remedy their concerns.

“Our experience with the city has been very positive,” Parker said. “We felt like our concerns have been addressed.”

Even Tuesday, Commissioners approved an amended version of the ordinance, with additions made in the last week, including updated definitions of certain terms and extending the maximum stay for residents in shelters from 120 days to 150 days within a year’s time, except for those staying in a transitional housing program.

Among the regulations in the ordinance:

*A shelter will have adequate waiting room so people will not have to wait outside on streets or alleys

*Must obtain a business license from the city

*Must allow clients the use of restrooms during the shelter’s hours of operation

*Facilities should be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (at least to provide showering opportunities to those in need)

*The operator will not allow shopping carts or pets on the premises (except for when the pet is registered to help with disability or support)

*Must have written policies and procedures on the use of prescription or over-the-counter medication 

*Boarding and lodging should provide sufficient on-street parking as required by the Covington Zoning Code.

*Ultimately, Meyer said the ordinance is about three things: Obeying the law, treating clients with respect and being a good neighbor. 

Still, there were those who weren’t in favor of the idea.

“I applaud you guys for trying to get control of this thing,” said Ralph Davis of West 13th Street. “I’m doubtful this is such a great idea. This is probably going to hurt (the homeless) more than help them.”

Commissioner Bowman said it was an example of “over-legislating,” and suggested the city should reimburse the agencies for the money they spend on their licenses. 

Commissioner Shannon Smith noted that the “actions and continued communication” with agencies showed that the city was working “in good faith.”

“We are always here to listen,” she said. “This ordinance opened up lines of communication that weren’t here before.”

Mayor Meyer noted that even now, the city will continue to meet with agency representatives who wish to discuss the new ordinance. Meyer has frequently noted that homelessness is not merely a Covington issue.

“This is a challenge for all of Northern Kentucky to look into its soul,” he said. “This is a regional issue.”

Also Tuesday:

Commissioner Smith proposes ‘Conversion Therapy’ ordinance

In her comments after the legislative portion of the meeting, Commissioner Smith referenced an Internet story where Louisville pastor Rev. Jason Crosby advocated for Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, a grassroots organization encouraging the making of Conversion Therapy — or the unscientific belief that someone can be transformed from homosexual to heterosexual — illegal in cities throughout the state. 

Nineteen states and dozens of cities across the U.S. — including Cincinnati — have banned the idea of Conversion Therapy so far, and Smith proposed that Covington be the next.

“Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities,” the Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky website reads. 

Raised with no objection, Smith said Conversion Therapy had “no place” in Covington, and an ordinance will be written and considered at a future meeting.

Commission approves easement agreement for First Financial

Commissioners approved a proposal to execute an easement agreement with First Financial Bank for Internet teller machine utility lines beneath the sidewalk along Sixth Street.

First Financial Bank proposed to locate an internet teller machine at 17-21 Sixth St. “to accommodate the machine, the bank has requested a utility line easement along a portion of Sixth Street in order to connect to a nearby property,” documents say.  

The easement is for a 10-year term, with two optional 5-year renewals.

The reason that’s important? Last week, the city announced the bank would be opening a new innovation center in the historic four-story building at 601 Madison Ave., currently home to Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Bridal Boutique.

Downing: Tell TANK Your Feelings

Commissioner Downing echoed the statements Mayor Meyer made last month: Make your voices heard.

Specifically, he wants Covington residents to notify the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), which is proposing major changes to its routes — including to many of the Covington routes. 

Residents can send their opinions to info@tankbus.org.

TANK says nearly every one of its routes will be affected, including access to the East Side of Covington, as well as the elimination of the city transit center.

“Those who want to go to NKU or Florence will have to go through Cincinnati,” Meyer noted. 

Others who want to go to Edgewood or St. Elizabeth hospital will have to change buses at Crestview Hills.

“These are truly significant changes,” Meyer said. “They will have a significant impact on our community. Let the Transit Authority know your opinion.”

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., Feb. 18, 2020, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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