Op-Ed

Focus on Hope Center’s success in addressing underlying causes of homelessness.

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.

As the city’s budget was discussed and featured in the news, information about the Hope Center provided an incomplete picture of what we do.

The Hope Center Emergency Shelter not only meets basic needs but connects clients with programs that address the underlying causes of homelessness, such as mental health problems, addiction, and lack of education and employment skills. In many cases, the shelter is the first step toward finding a permanent home.

Last year, which was a typical year, the shelter provided food and lodging to 1,830 unduplicated clients. Each of those clients was interviewed and evaluated by the intake office, and they brought with them a wide range of personal stories of what led them here.

A majority of these individuals (1,166) were only looking for short-term accommodation or just needed to be connected with other resources. Sometimes they were just on their way from one place to another. They stayed for 14 days or less.

Of the remaining 664 clients, 296 were moved to permanent or transitional housing that same year — 75 moved directly into permanent housing and another 77 moved to permanent housing after completing another Hope Center program.

Our intake office works with clients to identify issues that could be addressed by one of our programs, such as detox, mental health, recovery, employment and others. The intake office educated shelter clients about opportunities and referred 221 individuals out of the shelter and into these programs. Eventually many of those also will move into permanent housing.

Lexington is fortunate to have several excellent agencies that serve people who need assistance finding their way. The Salvation Army is there for women and families. Arbor Youth Services serves unaccompanied children. Greenhouse 17 helps victims of domestic violence. The Catholic Action Center is for adult women and men.

The Hope Center Emergency Shelter serves adult males, the largest single category within the homeless population. According to HUD’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 60.2% of homeless are men and boys, while 39.1% are women and girls. Different populations have different characteristics, needs and challenges, and agencies must adjust to those differences.

The Hope Center Emergency Shelter is the first point of contact for those needing help with basic needs and struggling against many obstacles. Once their obstacles are discussed, the Shelter staff gives referrals and assists with many needed resources such as recovery and permanent housing options. It provides a pathway to opportunity for people to acquire the personal tools they need to become self-reliant, contributing members of society.

One example of the life-changing services of the Hope Center is our very own Mike St. John, who works in our detox center and is a productive, tax-paying member of the community. Mike was dropped off at the Hope Center Homeless Shelter with nothing more than a backpack. He dropped out of high school at 18 and started using drugs at age 20. His drug use intensified when he was given a cancer diagnosis in 2012. Today, thanks to the Hope Center’s comprehensive programs, he has a beautiful family -- a 7-month-old son and 18-year-old step-daughter that just graduated high school. He has a home, food in the fridge and two cars that have been paid off. Mike also worked to earn his GED before his son was born.

Statistics tell a story, but they must be put in context. And those statistics become successes when we help permanently transform lives and families. The Emergency Shelter is the beginning of those success stories.

Cecil Dunn is executive director of the Hope Center, which serves homeless and at-risk persons on a daily basis through its emergency shelter and programs designed to address the underlying causes of homelessness -- addiction, mental health, physical health, employment, housing and more.

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