LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The brightest smiles are often the ones secretly hiding a whole lot of pain and lately, her positivity has been one of the only things getting single mother Kasey Campbell through each day.
Campbell and her two teenage children currently live in a small hotel room after getting a notice to vacate from her landlord. The family stayed in the rental for the past six years.
She had 18 days to find a new place that would accept her Section 8 housing choice voucher but couldn't find anything.
"It's either they don't want to take your voucher, or they want too much," said Campbell.
Campbell never saw the situation coming and says she's never been homeless before.
"It's a hard reality to swallow," said Campbell. "I'd say it's even harder for people who don't even have a hotel."
Through Community Action Council, Campbell applied for the Housing Stability Program and received a hotel voucher.
Executive Director Sharon Price says they've given out 300 hotel vouchers through the program.
"Community actions is a great connector. So, people that find themselves in need of housing support, maybe they need support with their utilities or anything like that, I would tell anybody who finds himself in need to contact Community Action because we are connected to every single partner in the community. And if it's not a program that we offer, we know exactly where they need to go," said Price.
The non-profit has been designated as the anti-poverty fighting network to work closely with the city to battle poverty and homelessness.
Price says the housing stability program is part of that, and 44 hotel vouchers were active as of Tuesday.
Campbell's voucher runs out on Wednesday. Even though she's searching for a home every day, scraping up money for numerous application fees, she still doesn't have a place to live on Thursday.
"I don't know what happens. I guess, at that point, I see what else I can do," said Campbell.
As of now, she's thinking about staying in her car.
Community Action can only extend the voucher if a person is in the process of getting a place.
"Unfortunately, we have people that have reached that next step where they ended up having to go and stay with family or friends or things like that because there just is not enough affordable housing in Lexington. But Community Action is committed to being a part of the solution. We are working and our team is brainstorming different ways that we can help bring in and secure additional affordable housing units and make sense," said Price.
Hotel vouchers allow participants to stay in a hotel for 30 days while they look for a permanent space. Price says the number of people using hotel vouchers right now shows that there's a need.
Recognizing the need, city officials are putting more money into fighting homelessness through innovative and sustainable solutions to the homelessness fund.
That fund includes $1 million for a transition-in-place program for households experiencing homelessness. It also includes a proposed $4 of ARPA funding for a Transitional Housing Pilot Project that would help families by providing a place to stay and supportive services for them to work toward self-sufficiency. However, the program is waiting on Council approval. Both are expected to be up and running this summer.
The total number of people the city served from 10/1/2019 – 9/30/2020 was 3,046. The number was 2,929 in 2021. The number for 2022 will be released in 2023.
LEX 18 asked the city's Housing Commissioner if they were checking or aware of how the affordable housing shortage is impacting homelessness.
"The Office of Homelessness tracks changes in the rental market including data provided by the Census Bureau on those households that are cost-burdened renters," said Housing Commissioner Charlie Lanter. "We know that those households paying more than 30% of their monthly income towards rent are less likely to be able to sustain medical emergencies, unplanned lack of employment, temporary lack of transportation, and so many other unplanned life occurrences."
"Research has linked any households paying over 30% of their income towards housing costs as to have a higher likelihood of having a homelessness occurrence. As rents increase, without significant increases in income to match, it is highly probable that more households will experience a homeless occurrence," said Lanter.
At least for now, Price isn't contributing lack of affordable housing to a rise in homelessness.
"I would say that the lack of affordable housing is straining the issue and perhaps causing more people to be vulnerable," said Price.
Right now, Campbell feels very vulnerable, and she is grasping for every bit of hope she can find. She's gone to several agencies for help in the past few weeks.
"I still have that hope that there's something. I'm gone find it. I'm still gonna find it," said Campbell.
She's choosing to stay positive even though her gas tank is on E and she seems to be running out of options.
If you or someone you know is looking for help, don't give up. Be persistent. Reach out to Community Action Council, Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, and New Vista Drop-In Center.
The Community Action offers a variety of services for families trying to stabilize including free preschool: childplus.net.