LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The results of an annual count of Lexington's homeless population showed a major decrease from last year, but one shelter director says she believes the number of homeless people in the city is probably much larger.
LexCount is a point-in-time count of Lexington's homeless population where volunteers count people in emergency shelters, transitional housing or living unsheltered on a single night in January. This year's count showed 689 people in the city are homeless, a 12.5 percent decrease compared to 2019's count, according to the city's Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention.
The decrease is likely due in part to a new focus on placing people into permanent housing, said David Shadd, director of programs at the Hope Center, a Lexington Shelter.
"We’ve seen some of the people who have been here a long time get into housing and that’s really positive," Shadd said.
But homelessness continues to be a problem, he said, that needs resources.
"We see some improvement but I think the message that I would like to have people hear is that there’s still work to be done," he said. "Homelessness will always be an issue. Our goal is just to make sure it’s brief and that people get into housing as quickly as they can."
Catholic Action Center Director Ginny Ramsey agreed with Shadd that continued resources for the homeless are needed.
"We don’t want to give a false sense of security to our community or that we have "x" amount when indeed that number is probably triple," Ramsey said.
She believes the decrease reported by this year's LexCount does not reflect what she sees at the Catholic Action Center.
"If we were to do a true count we wouldn’t leave out those who are incarcerated, those who are in the hospital and those particularly in addiction programs," she said.
Federal guidelines determine who is counted in LexCount, according to Polly Ruddick, Director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention. She said the "snapshot" is just one piece of data used to determine the funding for resources in the city that address homelessness.