Merlene Davis: Lexington rallies for those in need

Herald-Leader columnistJune 3, 2013 

  • HOW TO HELP

    To volunteer: If you want to donate your time or truck to help families move out of Pimlico Apartments, call (859)514-7210, or email caclexky@insightbb.com.

    To donate: Tax deductible donations can be mailed to Catholic Action Center, P.O. Box 324, Lexington, Ky, 40588. Put "Pimlico Relief Fund" in the memo. Or donate at Godsnet.info and put "Pimlico" in the comments section.

There was not one grumble from the six men who were helping William Bland move from his home at Pimlico Apartments last week, not even when Tayna Fogle, another volunteer, barked at them to be quick but careful.

In fact, Bland's move was a coming-together of many community agencies and volunteers who were more than willing to lend a helping hand to a large number of residents who must be moved by July 31.

Bland was one of about 170 tenants notified in March that they would be required to relocate from the Lexington Housing Authority's complex because it is in need of restoration. More than 70 tenants still need help to move.

Bland was pleased to be off that list.

"They called yesterday and said they would come today to help me move," he said May 30. "These nice people got a truck for me and got me all this help. It was a blessing. I didn't know what I was going to do."

The men helping Bland were volunteers from Divine Providence Way, a housing program that includes job training, vocational rehabilitation and social services for homeless men working toward self-sufficiency. The program is run by the Catholic Action Center.

The truck they were loading was on loan from Fresh Approach, a program that provides jobs and teaches skills to intellectually challenged adults.

Bland, who is unemployed, said he was receiving help with other resources to facilitate his move.

"A lot of people didn't have the resources to move out, and I am one of those people," he said. "I just don't have the money to move."

Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Catholic Action Center, said numerous government and private agencies and religious organizations stepped up to donate time and money to help the residents move by the end of July. They met with residents twice in May to discuss their needs, which boiled down to utility and rental deposits, and trucks or volunteer movers for about 70 families. At last count, about 20 still hadn't found a new home to move to.

After those meetings, 12 families were moved within 10 days with the help of Total Grace Baptist Church, which rented a truck for them.

Fogle has called landlords, kept residents informed, and solicited volunteers from an ex-offender re-entry program to move residents.

Ramsey said by the second meeting, on May 28, that Connie Godfrey, director of the city's Adult and Tenant Services, had negotiated with the utility companies to work with tenants on their back bills and deposits for their new homes.

Plus, Austin Simms, executive director of the housing authority, had arranged to refund deposits to residents on the same day.

"We went to one of the meetings and were hearing the concerns of needing the deposit back," Simms said. "I sat down with the staff and said let's make this a priority. Let's go ahead and get it done."

If tenants turn in their keys by noon, they can get their deposit by 4 p.m. With a quick turnaround on the deposit refund, Ramsey was able to offer short-term loans to residents for deposits at their new home. The money for the loans was donated by individuals and churches including First Presbyterian Church, Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Church and the Cathedral of Christ the King.

"We take them to pick up their refund and they sign it over to the fund and we give them the change if there is any," Ramsey said. "That way they won't have to pay a check-cashing place. Austin has done great things."

So now, several churches have volunteers working weekends through June 29. Many more volunteers and trucks are needed, as well as monetary donations.

"We will partner them with a family that needs assistance in moving," Ramsey said.

One urgent need is a four-bedroom apartment or house that is handicapped-accessible and accepts Section 8, she said. She has had difficulty finding a place for that family.

But with a community that has rallied to help their neighbors this far, surely someone can help with this problem as well.

I'm impressed.


HOW TO HELP

To volunteer: If you want to donate your time or truck to help families move out of Pimlico Apartments, call (859)514-7210, or email caclexky@insightbb.com.

To donate: Tax deductible donations can be mailed to Catholic Action Center, P.O. Box 324, Lexington, Ky, 40588. Put "Pimlico Relief Fund" in the memo. Or donate at www.godsnet.info and put "Pimlico" in the comments section.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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