Nearly 200 homeless men, women and children attended Tuesday’s resource fair organized by the Homeless Council of the Ohio Valley (HCOV).
With more than 50 vendors at Settle Memorial Methodist Church, the homeless were offered a free coat, hair cut, shower, cell phone, eye screening, massage, lunch and information on local services like insurance, shelters and education.
Michael Mays said he has been “temporarily displaced” since October after an accident and injury forced him out of his job in a local factory. He has not been able to find work since.
“I’m not homeless,” Mays said. “It’s temporary if you’re willing to work yourself out of it.”
Mays has submitted 37 applications since recovering from his injury. Of those, 15 resulted in interviews, but no job offers.
Mays said he was staying at a local shelter for a while, but after not meeting curfew expectations decided to leave. Since then, he has been making a shelter around Owensboro out of two-by-fours and blankets, using an electric heater or lamp to stay warm.
“You’d be surprised how warm you’ll stay,” Mays said. “But it’s embarrassing that I live like that. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger though.”
But, for Mays, the loneliness is the worst part of being homeless. It’s events like the resource fair, Mays said, that help affirm people care.
“It makes you feel good that other people know you’re out there,” Mays said. “Sometimes I think, no one would know if I died. This shows that people remember you.”
At the resource fair, Mays was able to get a new coat and a new ID in order to get a new cell phone.
“A lot of people think it’s crazy that I need a phone,” Mays said. “But it’s a must when I’m trying to get a job interview. I will even have enough data to submit online job applications.”
Jenni Warren, Fiscal Court HCOV liaison, said attendance was up at this year’s resource fair, which will benefit the council as they attempt to establish a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Owensboro. A survey was given to each in attendance at Tuesday’s fair, which will be used as data to drive decisions for their plan.
Data on the Kentucky homeless population was previously obtained through a survey from Housing and Urban Development. According to Warren, the HUD survey was long and confusing and was only able to be distributed in 24-hour period on the last Wednesday of January. Even more, homeless data was combined with seven other Ohio Valley counties, which Warren said often did not report.
“Those surveys were so absurdly inaccurate,” Warren said. “They said we had so few homeless that we weren’t recognizing the real problem. They gave skewed, unreal numbers.”
Warren believes that the HCOV survey will give a more accurate look into the homeless population of Owensboro and Daviess County and provide the best data for the 10-year plan.