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Viral Facebook videos help raise money for the homeless in Hazard

'Wherever you're at tonight, it has to be better than this.'

Hazard Deputy Police Chief Joseph Engle visited a bridge where homeless people stay in Hazard and recorded videos to educate people and raise money for a shelter.
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Hazard Deputy Police Chief Joseph Engle visited a bridge where homeless people stay in Hazard and recorded videos to educate people and raise money for a shelter.

A pair of somber Facebook videos depicting homelessness in Hazard have helped raise more than $17,000 for a new shelter.

The videos were captured a month ago by Hazard Police Deputy Chief Joseph Engle as a way to educate people on the homeless community. Engle posted both videos on Feb. 7 and 8, and they have more than 115,000 views combined. The videos feature Engle visiting areas in Hazard where the homeless reside.

Engle also is the pastor of Hazard’s Blair Memorial Baptist Church.

“I want people to know that homelessness is not a crime; it’s someone down on their luck who needs a hand,” Engle said Tuesday afternoon. “The videos humanized it for people. Even though the community is poor here, people like to help.”

After Hazard’s sole homeless shelter closed near the end of 2016, Ben Fugate, a pastor as Hazard’s Journey Christian Church, began raising money in January for a new shelter called the Hope House. Since then, $17,000 has been raised, of which $10,000 was received in February alone, Engle said. Thanks to social media, the Hope House even collected a donation from a woman in Jacksonville, Fla.

About $3,300 worth of the donations have come from GoFundMe.

“We are so excited about reopening the homeless shelter here in Hazard. We are really depending on the support of the community to enable us to provide shelter to those without and to provide an environment where they are surrounded by hope,” Fugate wrote on GoFundMe.

"If you got a roof over your head tonight, you ought to be thankful." Hazard Deputy Chief Joseph Engle took viewers of his popular social media videos on a tour of a parking structure where homeless sleep in the Eastern Kentucky community. The vi

Hazard is in Perry County, which is home to 27,565 people, according to U.S. Census data from July 2015. More than 28 percent of residents live in poverty.

The Hope House, which opened in January, is run by a group of volunteers who provide shelter and food to men, women and children. The shelter operates from about 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day, but organizers plan to increase the hours because of the donations received, Engle said.

Engle grew up in Hazard and has been the deputy police chief since 2006. The homeless population in the community has only grown since then, he said.

“The economy has been a big reason (for the homelessness),” Engle said. “Hazard has a psychiatric hospital, and when they get released from there, a lot of them didn’t have a home in the first place.”

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

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