GEORGETOWN — Alice Dalton returned to Lexington with her young son about two months ago after failing to find work in Virginia.
Relatives were unable to permanently house Dalton and Marcus, 5, because of restrictions in their leases. Dalton wasn't sure where she would sleep each night.
"I'm an adult," Dalton said. "I could probably struggle for myself. But he's only 5."
After Dalton stayed with a cousin for one night, a year-old non-profit organization in Scott County found her a two-bedroom apartment. That night she and Marcus slept on an old couch. More furniture, including two beds, would be donated in following weeks.
Hospitality House has helped 648 individuals or families since it started in November 2009, program director Stacey Cruse said. Cruse said 85 percent were single mothers and their children, 10 percent were families that included children, and 5 percent were single men.
Hospitality House provides short-term emergency and transitional housing and other services to people in Scott County.
Some people were referred to other organizations for help. In some situations, Hospitality House pays the rent for three months while providing financial education to help families survive on their own, Cruse said.
"We don't want to perpetuate a Band-Aid type of system," Cruse said. "We want people to be successful and independent."
Hospitality House accepts donations. Cruse said the organization wants to obtain an apartment complex for families with a community room for counseling.
Dalton first contacted Amen House, a non-profit that provides food, clothing and financial assistance to people in need. Amen House representatives put her in touch with Hospitality House.
Both groups are under the umbrella of Scott United Ministries, which is comprised of church leaders and volunteers from other organizations, such as United Way.
The family, which includes Dalton's husband, Chris, had gone to Virginia to help ailing relatives. She left her job at Subway, and Chris Dalton quit his job at Frisch's.
The plan was to move to Virginia permanently and enroll Marcus in school, Chris Dalton said.
But the Daltons could not find work after about three months, he said. And his grandfather and father started to get better. Alice Dalton returned to Kentucky first; Chris Dalton arrived a couple of weeks later.
"I was glad to have a roof over my head," Alice Dalton said.
The Daltons were soon rehired by their former employers. They walk from the apartment near Cherry Blossom Way and Champion Drive to their nearby jobs because they don't have a car.
Alice Dalton works a night shift so she can be with Marcus during the day while her husband is at work.
Marcus, a buoyant boy who hugs Cruse when she visits the family, will start preschool soon.
Cruse planned to talk with someone about a cheap vehicle for the family.
The family plans to continue living in the apartment after Hospitality House stops paying the rent.
"I think we can do it," Alice Dalton said.
Hospitality House also helped an 18-year-old Scott County High School student about two weeks ago.
Alex Rakowski said he started sleeping at friends' houses after he had an argument with his guardians. Rakowski said he was intruding on his friends' families and wanted a long-term place to live.
"I was finding it very difficult to move around as much as I was," Rakowski said. "My grades were slipping, and I wasn't really happy with that."
Rakowski went to his school guidance counselor, who referred him to Hospitality House. Cruse contacted a Hospitality House volunteer, Kathy Butcher of Sadieville, who welcomed Rakowski into her home.
Butcher said she was led by God to help the homeless and had asked Cruse what she could do to help. With five sons now living on their own, Butcher had space for Rakowski.
Rakowski was accepted into Job Corps while living with Butcher and her husband. Last week, he packed to leave for Henderson.
"I actually felt really comfortable here," Rakowski said. "I had a place where I could actually settle down."
The Butchers' cat, Frankie, sometimes slept with Rakow ski. There were family dinners a few nights a week. And Rakowski said he could unwind after school before starting on his homework.
The Butchers invited Rakowski to stay with them during his breaks from Job Corps, where he will be trained in deckhand work and computer technology.
Steve Hill, the homeless liaison for Scott County Schools, serves on the advisory board for Hospitality House and often refers students to Cruse.
In one situation, a family with two children was unable to pay the rent after the father lost his job, Hill said. Hospitality House paid their rent for 90 days. The father found another job and was able to save enough money to pay the rent.
"They were bouncing around," Hill said. "They had two kids and they were going from place to place every night. It was a really tough situation."
Cruse, who used to work as a family resource coordinator for Western Elementary School in Scott County, said the program's primary goal is to provide stability for children and their families. She started the program after realizing that homeless children in Scott County had few options.
Teachers could not expect homeless children to perform well socially and academically, Cruse said. Some were uprooted when families went to Lexington to seek help from organizations such as the Salvation Army.
"I was just really, deeply disturbed by this," Cruse said.
She said the federal government does not define a homeless person simply as someone living on the street. Two or more families living in one house might qualify as homeless. The same is true of someone living in a substandard housing situation, Cruse said.
In one November week, there were about 141 students who were considered homeless, Hill said. There are about 8,200 students in the district.
"When we say that there aren't any homeless people in Scott County, we just really aren't opening our eyes," Cruse said.