A push to raise money to house Lexington’s homeless families has raised more than $16,000 since Nov. 1, organizers of the Give Kids A Home fundraising event said this week.
“With $700, we can house a family for a month,” said Ginny Ramsey, co-director of Catholic Action Center and the Community Inn, and one of the organizers of the Give Kids A Home fundraising push. “We will start housing our first family in early December but we will continue to collect donations through Dec. 15.”
As of Tuesday night, the group had raised $16,590.
More than 1,000 kids in Fayette County Public Schools were identified as homeless during the last school year. Unfortunately, there are few options for homeless families in Lexington. A pilot program run by the Community Action Council and paid for with $200,000 in city funds has been overwhelmed with the number of families needing help. The waiting list has averaged 10 families. All funds donated to the Give Kids A Home fund will be used to augment that program, Ramsey said.
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“The school system will be working to identify families that need housing,” Ramsey said. Community Action Council will manage the funds. “We have also trained 22 mentors to work with families beginning Dec. 1.”
The Give Kids A Home fundraiser began Nov. 1 when more than 35 people — community leaders, social workers and business professionals — spent 24 hours homeless on Lexington streets. The group posted videos and tweets about their experience on the Give Kids A Home Facebook page as a way to draw attention to the issue of homelessness and kick off the Give Kids A Home fundraiser.
Liz Davenport said the 24-hour homeless experience opened her eyes to the issue of family homelessness.
At lunch at Lighthouse Ministries, Davenport met a homeless mother of four.
The woman’s two older children were in school. Davenport, a single mother of two, said she was struck by the similarities and differences between their life experiences.
“We had two similar situations but two vastly different worlds,” Davenport said. “I am going to go home and my kids are going to be safe in their warm beds. She doesn’t have that. ... She has to get her kids up at a shelter and get them ready for school. I slept in a shelter that night and only got a few hours sleep. I can’t imagine being a kid and trying to live in a shelter and go to school and finish my homework.”
The woman told Davenport that she had been homeless for seven months but she thought she was going to get a voucher for housing soon.
It is incredibly painful to be invisible. More often than not, people just see right through you. I know I’ve been guilty of that before; I am too busy to stop and talk to someone when they ask me for money. I don’t do that any more.
Mary Houlihan, director of victim services for the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and participant in the 24-hour homeless experience
Davenport started A Running Start, a nonprofit which helps people struggling with homelessness and addiction train for half marathons and other road races. She’s also the director of community engagement for GreenHouse 17, a domestic violence shelter and advocacy organization. She’s no stranger to homelessness.
“But those were adults,” Davenport said. “There were more children out there than I thought. I had no clue there were so many homeless children.”
The 35 people were split into groups of four and five people.
Mary Houlihan, director of victim services for the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s office, was in a group with Davenport. As a longtime social worker, Houlihan said she thought she understood poverty. But after walking miles in the shoes of a homeless person, she said she wasn’t prepared for how exhausting and demoralizing homelessness can be.
“It is incredibly painful to be invisible,” Houlihan said. “More often than not, people just see right through you. I know I’ve been guilty of that before; I am too busy to stop and talk to someone when they ask me for money. I don’t do that any more.”
The homeless people she and Davenport encountered were kind and helpful and never called them imposters, which was what Houlihan feared. They helped the temporary homeless groups figure out the bus schedule and where to get food.
Davenport said she hopes the 24-hour homeless experience will be held again soon so more people will get a street-level view of homelessness.
“I think this experience humanizes it,” Davenport said. “We need to move from sympathy to empathy.”
Give Kids A Home
A fundraising effort to raise money to house homeless Fayette County families will continue until Dec. 15.
To give go to: www.givekidsahome.com
Donations can also be sent to:
Give Kids A Home
P.O. Box 324
Lexington KY 40588