Fayette County

Public comment sought on five potential shelter locations in Lexington

Community Inn, at 824 Winchester Road, opened in April 2011 as a homeless center and church.
Community Inn, at 824 Winchester Road, opened in April 2011 as a homeless center and church. ©2012 Herald-Leader

Organizers of the Community Inn want the public to comment on five potential new locations for the shelter that is at the center of a legal battle and a federal housing investigation.

"We are trying to be as open and as transparent as possible," Ginny Ramsey said of the shelter's search for a new home. Ramsey is one of the co-founders of the Community Inn.

City officials revoked the conditional use permit of the Community Inn in June 2012 because they said organizers told city officials that the facility would be used as a church, not a homeless shelter. Residents near the Community Inn also complained about the inn's residents.

The inn on Winchester Road continues to operate as appeals of the city's decision are pending in court. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is conducting a fair-housing investigation into whether the city violated federal laws that say people cannot be denied housing because of race or a disability, such as mental illness.

The Community Inn and a group of service providers had proposed using the Lorillard Lofts, a stalled condominium development off Leestown Road, as a Wayfinder Center for the homeless. In addition to a shelter, the center would include a clinic and respite care for the city's homeless population. But Mayor Jim Gray announced this month that the city would not back the proposal after several neighborhoods bordering the Lorillard Lofts complained.

Ramsey said the Lorillard Lofts proposal is not dead, "it's just been postponed."

During negotiations with the city about the future of the shelter, the city gave the Community Inn more than 60 possible locations that are zoned for a homeless shelter. Five possible locations will be discussed at a meeting Nov. 4. Ramsey said the five locations were picked based on size, location, availability and ability to retrofit.

"We do know from our folks on the streets, whose only transportation is by foot, that walking distance to the downtown area is needed," Ramsey said.

Those locations include 166 North Martin Luther King Boulevard, 1353 West Main Street, 1400 North Forbes Road, 353 Waller Avenue and 219 East Short Street. Ramsey said the Martin Luther King location probably is out because it is near Sayre, a private school in downtown Lexington. But each of the potential locations has pros and cons. The Waller Avenue location, for example, is a former nursing home and would be ideal for the type of services the homeless community needs — such as a clinic.

"We know there are a lot of people with strong opinions about where we should move," Ramsey said. "We think that it's important that we hear from neighborhood representatives, city officials, social-service agencies and local businesses as we decide on our new home."

Ramsey said homeless people would attend the Nov. 4 hearing to give their input.

The session is designed to be an open forum where participation will be encouraged to offer feedback on pros and cons of each location. Another possibility that could be discussed is opening several small shelters throughout the city rather than one large shelter, organizers said.

If you go

Public comment on future homes for Community Inn

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 4

Where: Central Christian Church, 205 E. Short. St.

Preregistration is strongly encouraged. Send name, contact information to caclexky@insightbb.com or davidccky@gmail.com

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