Fighting homelessness in Lexington

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) –  Hundreds of people fight frigid temperatures every night on the streets of Lexington.

According to the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, in 2018 they say they found 685 people sleeping on the streets.

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Director Polly Ruddick says it’s a 55% decrease since 2014.

Ruddick says during that night it was a day to recognize the city’s progress, but also focus on subsequent challenges.

She says her office’s mission is to completely eradicate homelessness, but that starts with helping people in Lexington survive the cold.

” A plan was developed back in 2014,” said Ruddick. ” And basically what Lexington realized is we are a compassionate city so we have the ability to expand our shelters so no one has to be on the streets with these cold temperatures.”

Having a strategic mindset, Ruddick’s office set out to coordinate funding to expand Lexington’s shelters and create systems to get people indoors during winter nights.

Ruddick says part of that includes “Compassionate Caravan”, which is ran by the Catholic Action Center.

” You can call and Compassionate Caravan will pick up,” said Ruddick. ” They also go to known locations of people who have set up camps outside and make sure, do you want to come inside tonight?”

In Lexington, the Hope-Mobile, Street Outreach, and Lex-Tran also gives free rides to shelters during cold weather.

Director Ruddick says that the costs of investing in programs can be immense.

She says by investing in programs to reduce it long-term, it benefits individuals and the city.

But Ruddick says the biggest challenge is affordable housing.

According to Director Ruddick, half of the people that use Lexington’s shelters are employed, but substantial housing costs prevent many of them from owning or renting.

Ruddick says many low-income renters are forced to spend up to 80% of their income on housing.

Director Ruddick says her office is constantly investing in new programs to attack those problems.

” I think the last time I counted there was about 32 different programs that we have funded and started,” said Ruddick. ” So the thing about that fund is we will get you started and we will test it.” A lot of those are pilots, see if it works, if it doesn’t we don’t continue it.” If it does work, we will find other sustainable solutions to fund that.”