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Residents Advocate Against Jail as a Homeless Shelter in Boyle County

07 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Challenges in the Boyle County homelessness issue prompt community calls for comprehensive solutions, rejecting reliance on jails.

Residents Advocate Against Jail as a Homeless Shelter in Boyle County - Inmate Lookup

As homelessness poses a growing challenge in Kentucky cities this holiday season, Boyle County finds itself as one of the communities at the forefront of efforts to address the complex issue.

The new Hope Village, a winter shelter in Lexington with space for up to 160 people, opened on November 22.

In downtown Richmond on November 29th, a neighborhood association distributed winter clothes to those in need.

Danville faced its own set of challenges on Wednesday night, addressing concerns during a town hall meeting at Danville City Hall. Danville Police Chief Tony Gray described the problem as ‘enormous,’ approximating the homeless population to be as high as 100 individuals.

Chief Gray noted that while there are encampments throughout the city and county, the issue becomes more visible during the winter when people seek indoor shelter. He also stated that as it gets colder, the individuals will move indoors. They receive calls from the post office because it is open all day and night. Also, people occasionally enter the buildings in Constitution Square.

According to Boyle County Assistant Attorney Sarah Bryant, this time of year sees an increase in the docket, a rise in crime, and a surge in jail occupancy. Bryant explained that for many homeless individuals, being in jail is preferable to being on the streets, as it offers warmth, meals, and showers.

Over fifty percent of the approximately twenty-two homeless individuals surveyed by Center College reported their most recent residence in Boyle County. They came to the conclusion that the lack of reasonably priced housing in the area is one of the many contributing factors.

According to Kathy Miles, who is a member of the ASAP task force (the Agency for Substance Abuse Policy), a Danville-Boyle County Development Corporation housing analysis completed in the fall of 2022 also revealed a “large and significant need” for additional reasonably priced single-family homes and rental units.

The Centre College survey also identified unemployment, drug use, and criminal backgrounds as significant conditions among those experiencing homelessness.

Community efforts, led by non-profits, local groups, and individuals, demonstrate the community’s compassionate response to the issue. However, speakers at the meeting emphasized that these efforts are only a temporary solution.

One speaker emphasized that the existing initiatives provide only a temporary solution, asserting that they are akin to a band-aid and lack a comprehensive, sustainable plan for individuals experiencing homelessness.

According to the Boyle County Health Department, they received a grant to provide short-term housing for the homeless. However, Director Brent Blevins mentioned that the grant, related to COVID, could run out by February 2024 at the current rate of support being provided.

As Danville grapples with these challenges, residents express the need for more proactive measures. A town hall meeting held on Wednesday was for public comment, and city leaders did not discuss specific courses of action. Another town hall is planned for the new year, likely in January.

Carol Turner, a Danville resident looking to start a non-profit called God’s Grace Club to aid the homeless, emphasized the need for better community support.

Boyle County Assistant Attorney Sarah Bryant underscored the community’s need for improvement, highlighting the view that utilizing jail as a homeless shelter is suboptimal and that collective efforts should aim for better solutions.

To help alleviate the problem, the Heart of Kentucky United Way will host a duffle packing party on the 14th of December at 8:30 a.m. in Danville, gathering essential supplies for the city’s homeless population.