HAZARD — Last week, folks in the community noticed the doors were closed to the homeless shelter in downtown Hazard. The shelter announced in November it would be closing during the day and remaining open only at night. So, when people noticed the shelter vacant during the evening too, many of them assumed the facility to be completely shut down. As it turns out, although the building itself was indeed closed, those depending on the shelter’s services were provided with warm places to stay.
In December, KRCC took over responsibility for the homeless shelter. Prior to December, the shelter operated through Community Ministries. Last week, KRCC released a statement about the homeless shelter. KRCC’s statement will be included at the end of this article.
The Hazard Herald published an article in November which analyzed the major decrease in funding for the homeless shelter that Community Ministries has experienced over the past couple of years. According to the article: As of Oct. 31, Corner Haven received $204,707 in revenue for 2016. Direct expenses during the same time period equaled $311,806. In 2013, Corner Haven collected more than $100 thousand in cash donations. The dollar amount for 2016 dropped below $40 thousand through Oct. 31.
The cost to operate Corner Haven averages about $72 each day per resident. The total cost every day to keep the shelter open 24 hours is $1,039, which accumulates to $31,181 for the average month. Throughout the six coldest months of the year, $187,086 is required to operate the Crisis Center. Corner Haven also needs about $200 thousand to clear past debts.
In December, KRCC claimed responsibility for the shelter. When people noticed the facility closed of the evening, KRCC released the following statement to address concerns within the community:
“Kentucky River Community Care would like to take this opportunity to address our involvement with Corner Haven (sometimes referred to as the “homeless shelter”) and correct some false information that is circulating throughout our community. For those of you that are not aware, KRCC’s mission includes helping the most vulnerable of our population with behavioral health and addiction issues, supported employment, trauma, and housing needs. We have been working really hard to be a community partner to many agencies throughout our region and a community leader on many of the larger issues facing the citizens of Perry County and others.”
At KRCC, we operate under what is known as a “Housing First” philosophy, which means we recognize that safe, clean, permanent housing is essential to a person’s well-being, regardless of any other issues a person may have. Therefore, we absolutely understand the issue of homelessness and the attendant impact that it has on the homeless person and the community. KRCC operates over 100 housing units, manages voucher programs, and assists families in finding housing and remaining housed.
It is with this mission and understanding in mind that several of the Executive Team members at KRCC watched the saga of Community Ministries and the Corner Haven shelter unfold in the newspaper, on social media, and through reports to KRCC made by other concerned community leaders and groups. It is with this mission in mind that those same Executive Team members began discussions with the recently resigned Executive Director of Community Ministries and members of its Board. Those discussions began in early December 2016.
These discussions covered many topics of how various grants and debts would be handled, personnel issues, and of specific importance—where the shelter should be located. After the initial conversation with Community Ministries, KRCC inspected and evaluated the Corner Haven facility. To say the least, it was not up to code. This statement is, in no way, intended to cast dispersion on Community Ministries, our understanding and belief is that the organization did the best with what it had until it could no longer. Rather, the information is provided as background information to the events that followed.
After deciding that KRCC staff could not, in good conscience, operate a shelter in that condition, KRCC began evaluating alternative sites. Approximately a week before Christmas, KRCC was made aware that Community Ministries did not have the funds to pay its staff, so KRCC immediately hired those individuals, so as to continue to staff the shelter and make sure that the individuals would remain employed and so that Community Ministries could continue to operate the shelter. KRCC also provided additional staff during the recent snowstorm, with subzero temperatures, so that the shelter could remain open around the clock.
As discussions continued, KRCC was made aware that an identified location for the shelter would not be readily available, as anticipated. Since our plans had developed around this location, we were with no alternative but to relocate the individuals in the shelter to other locations and assign shelter staff (that wished to be) at other KRCC facilities. KRCC is aggressively scouting locations for a new shelter and continue to have discussions with the Community Ministries Board and other community partners regarding these desperately needed services for the most vulnerable of our citizens. KRCC started these conversations with its mission in mind and will continue them accordingly.”
There was a Hazard City Commission meeting last week, which at least one representative of the shelter attended. No official plans for a new building or the old building have been announced yet. However, the Hazard Herald will follow this story and publish relevant updates.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.