Committee members of the Homeless Council of the Ohio Valley (HCOV) met for the first time Tuesday to address a 10-year plan of ending homelessness in the greater Owensboro community. According to Jenni Warren, the Fiscal Court liaison to the HCOV, that long term goal begins with a needs assessment, which is what committee members are tasked with completing.
“We know there is a problem, but we can’t verbalize it because we don’t have the numbers,” Warren said in Tuesday’s meeting.
HCOV chairman Harry Pedigo, who is the executive director of St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter, said his shelter alone served 502 men in 2018. But Pedigo said 75 percent of those men “experience homelessness,” citing the example of a relationship break up that may leave a man without housing temporarily. Pedigo said his shelter served around 80 men that were “chronically homeless.”
But the number of homeless across the city and county have yet to be captured. Once that needs assessment is finished, Warren says it will become the foundation of a plan. There is not a timeline for the plan, as the committee is made up of volunteers. Warren did say in Tuesday’s meeting that she intends for the council’s 10-year plan to fit on 10 pages.
“We don’t want people to put a binder on their shelf and forget about this,” Warren said.
HCOV has identified three community needs priorities that Warren said will be the first issues to be tackled. The council plans to increase the number of transitional housing units and emergency beds for women and women with children, who are currently an underserved population.
The council has also identified a great need for youth age 18 to 23 who find themselves without permanent housing, namely those in foster care that age out of the system. The council hopes to create student housing for this demographic, who Pedigo says cannot thrive with the older homeless population.
Finally, the council hopes to create a volunteer group whose mission is to counsel those seeking transitional housing and provide an online housing resource. According to Warren, case management is key.
“It’s been proven that if you give a person a house, provide care and case management, the person doesn’t fail. They don’t return to homelessness,” Warren said.