Fayette County

Funding for Lexington’s main homeless shelter for men in limbo

Hope Center to open new apartment complex for recovering addicts

Lexington's Hope Center seeks to open a new 48-unit sober living apartment complex for recovering addicts seeking housing.
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Lexington's Hope Center seeks to open a new 48-unit sober living apartment complex for recovering addicts seeking housing.

The city of Lexington is scrambling to find $850,000 to fund the Hope Center’s homeless shelter for men in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Hope Center received $1 million for the operation of the shelter in the current-year budget, but Mayor Linda Gorton’s proposed $373 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year did not include a direct appropriation for the Hope Center. Instead, city officials asked the Hope Center to apply for funding through a competitive grant process, which it has sometimes done in prior years. The Salvation Army, which operates a shelter for women and children, applies for its shelter funding through that grant process.

The city sets aside approximately $3 million each year for grants to social service agencies. But those grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

HOMELESS
The cafeteria floor was filled with mattresses at The Hope Center on Loudon Avenue in January 2008. Charles Bertram | Staff

Cecil Dunn, executive director of the Hope Center, said the shelter did not apply for the grant because it thought it would be funded through a direct allocation. The organization needs a consistent stream of funding to run the emergency shelter for men, which averages 200 men a night. When it has to compete with other social service agencies for those funds, the amount it receives fluctuates, he said.

Hope Center officials have talked to the city about the issue and believe it will be resolved before July 1, when current-year funding runs out.

“We are very hopeful that this will be resolved,” Dunn said.

Gorton’s administration has identified money that could be used to fund the shelter.

Tyler Scott, Gorton’s chief of staff, told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council during its Tuesday work session the city has identified $500,000 from unspent funds in the current-year budget that could be used to fund the shelter. That’s in addition to the $571,000 in other money the city had previously identified that could be used to fund the Hope Center. That’s more than the $850,000 needed to fund the shelter.

“That’ would leave more than $200,000 for additional money for council priorities,” Scott told the council Tuesday.

Gorton’s proposed budget includes a 15 percent cut to other partner agencies and certain spending areas. That’s why the Hope Center’s funding would be cut from $1 million to $850,000, Scott said.

Dunn said there are few other funding sources for the Hope Center’s shelter, the oldest city-supported shelter. It started in 1993.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Angela Evans asked if other nonprofits that were also cut in Gorton’s proposed budget were treated the same as Hope Center.

“The public may have a concern and certainly other social service agencies” about favoritism, Evans said.

Scott said the city owns the Loudon Avenue building where Hope Center’s men’s shelter is located.

“This is a facility that we own,” said Scott. “It’s a little bit different than other social services agencies.”

It will ultimately be up to the council to decide how to fund the shelter.

Councilwoman Amanda Bledsoe, who chairs the council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee, said discussions on possible council changes to Gorton’s proposed budget will begin in earnest later this month. The budget subcommittee considering funding for the Hope Center has been looking at various options, she said. The council must complete all of its proposed changes to Gorton’s budget by June 30.

“I appreciate the administration’s willingness to find some resources to allow us to have a conversation ... on how we may move forward with this option,” Bledsoe said.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton unveils her proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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