The number of people in Lexington experiencing homelessness continues to decline after the city implemented new programs aimed at curbing homelessness in 2014, city leaders said in a written release.
In 2017, 1,051 people were counted as homeless in Fayette County, a slight decrease from 2016, and a 27 percent decrease from 2014.
In 2014, the total number of people living on the streets and in emergency and other temporary housing in Lexington was 1,453. In 2016, that number dropped to 1,064 people. The numbers were reported to the Kentucky Housing Corporation, which released the data Wednesday.
That data is from the annual point-in-time count done each January that uses volunteers to scout more than 60 different locations in Fayette County to count homeless people in shelters and living outside. Fayette County’s numbers are higher than many areas because it has service providers that offer drug treatment and recovery programs for people experiencing homelessness. Those people are counted in Lexington’s annual count even if they are from other counties.
27 percentIn 2014, the number of homeless people in Lexington was 1,453. In 2017, the number of homeless people dropped to 1,051, a 27 percent decrease.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said the city created the first-ever Office of Homeless Prevention and Intervention in 2014 to address homelessness. Those programs are beginning to make a dent in the problem of homelessness.
“Homelessness is a complex issue that requires a complex solution,” Gray said “It also requires a lot of partners. In our compassionate city we are so fortunate there are always partners who are willing to help.”
The city has set aside $750,000 for homelessness programing in each of the past three years. That money has paid for a pilot program to house homeless families in apartments, another program that pays deposits and/or first-month rent for apartments for homeless people and an innovative mental health court program that encourages treatment, keeping people with mental illness out of the Fayette County Detention Center, the streets and the shelter system.
In addition, the city allocates millions of dollars each year to homeless shelters and other programs that target homelessness.
“We have worked with our most vulnerable citizens first, reducing the number of chronically homeless individuals and families by over 60 percent,” said Polly Ruddick, the director of the Office of Homeless Prevention and Intervention.
The number of people experiencing chronic homelessness — or extended periods of homelessness — climbed slightly in 2017 compared to 2016. In 2016, there were 98 people experiencing chronic homelessness in Fayette County. In 2017, the number was 117, according to data reported to the Kentucky Housing Corporation.
But even with the 2017 increase, the number of chronically homeless people has sharply declined over the past three years.
In 2015, there were 199 people who fit the definition of chronically homeless: someone who has spent more than 12 months homeless or has had multiple episodes of homelessness over three years. Chronically homeless are included in the homeless count.
Studies show the chronically homeless typically cost taxpayers the most money. Chronically homeless people are often in and out of jail and emergency rooms. The city started a pilot program called Housing First that provides apartments and support services to the chronically homeless. The city has hired researchers from the University of Kentucky to do a analysis of the two-year pilot program to determine if the model saves taxpayers money.
Also on Wednesday, Kentucky Housing Corporation released statewide homeless numbers. In 2017, the total number of homeless people in Kentucky was 4,025, a decrease from 2016 when the number of homeless people was 4,237. But that’s a 16 percent drop from 2015, when the total number of homeless people was 4,852.