Last updated: July 18. 2013 11:06PM - 141 Views
Cris Ritchie

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HAZARD – There may be some light at the end of the tunnel, at least in the short term, for the Corner Haven shelter in Hazard, where a loss of funding forced a drastic cut in services earlier this year.

Local officials met again on Tuesday with community leaders to try to hammer out an immediate plan to obtain funding for the homeless shelter. A first meeting was held at City Hall last week as several ideas were floated, from fundraisers to state funds, which could potentially raise $50,000 administrators with Community Ministries need to open the shelter full time through the winter months.

Staffing the shelter with an adequate number of people is the biggest cost factor preventing the shelter from opening full time, according to Community Ministries Director Adrienne Bush, whose organization operates the shelter. At present, Corner Haven only offers emergency housing through the night, and closes throughout the daytime hours. Even still, the shelter presently accommodates an average of 12 people each night.

“If people think that this is a problem, I’m asking for a commitment to help keep the shelter open through the winter,” Bush said.

Reopening the shelter full time before winter arrives is the biggest concern, noted Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman, adding that many of the city’s homeless have been staying on Main Street, under the parking garage or bridges, and they will need shelter during the winter months.

A big chunk of the funds needed could come from coal severance, as Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble brought up the possibility that severance taxes could be used for an infusion of funds to pay for salaries at the shelter.

Coal severance funds are typically only used for infrastructure projects, and in Perry County have been extensively used for waterline extension among other things. According to Judge Noble, however, there are exceptions, if approved by the Department for Local Government (DLG) in Frankfort, that coal severance could be used to pay for salaries.

The potential for coal severance was one bright spot following the meeting, Bush noted, as she and Noble met in his office afterward and spoke with a representative from DLG who confirmed that using coal severance for salaries is a possibility. But Bush cautioned that nothing else has been confirmed, and at present it remains only a possibility.

While some discussion on Tuesday centered around a short term solution for the upcoming winter, most of the meeting concerned a more long term outlook. Community Ministries receives funding for the shelter from the federal and state levels, though Bush urged a local component to that funding as well. The shelter, for the most part, houses people from here in Perry and surrounding counties.

Roughly 20 percent of the people who have used the shelter in the past are from surrounding counties, Bush noted, though at present Community Ministries does not receive any local government funding from those counties. The organization is also not currently receiving any funding from local government in Perry County, where the majority of the people who use the shelter are from.

Bush said it would be easier for her to request funding from neighboring counties if she first had commitments from Perry County as well.

“We as a community, and I’m talking local government and anybody else who wants to step in, has to step up right now,” she said.

Community Ministries has for the past two decades worked to keep the issue of funding homelessness initiatives off the plate of local government, noted Gerry Roll, director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky who at one time served as director of Community Ministries. But times since then have changed, she added, and it may now be time for local governments in the region to begin chipping in financially. She noted that the City of Hazard at one time allocated $10,000 each year, and the county $5,000.

“We’re not going to be able to fundraise our way out of this,” Roll said. “It’s just too big.”

Roll inquired if the city and county have any line items in their budgets allocating funds to the shelter. Mayor Gorman replied that the city is currently strapped financially, and officials are looking for areas to cut wherever possible.

“I can’t say that we can help you a whole lot,” Gorman said.

Roll also brought up the possibility of Mayor Gorman or Judge Noble forming a committee to look into the issue of homelessness on the local level, much the same way as officials in Lexington have.

While officials continue to work on reopening the shelter full time, anyone who wants can pitch in for Community Ministries in the form of donating money to the Run for the Hills Charity Challenge, an effort by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky to help raise funds for 10 local nonprofits. Community Ministries is one of them.

Between now and October 31, the Foundation will match dollar for dollar any money donated to the Run for the Hills challenge on behalf of any of those organizations, up to $10,000. For more information, you can call the Foundation at 606-439-1357.

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