During the 1980s, as affordable housing units disappeared and poverty expanded, the problem of homelessness grew, nationally and locally, to the point that it could no longer be ignored. Something had to be done. In Lexington, the Urban County Government formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, chaired by Debra Hensley. The task force studied the problem and issued its report in October, 1990. In this report, “By and For the Community,” the task force called for the establishment of a “24-hour comprehensive service facility. The overriding philosophy of this facility should be directed at providing services to all who need them.”
That facility is the Hope Center, which was created by a merger of the Community Kitchen and the Horizon Center. The Hope Center exists because the Urban County Government called for its creation.
The report stated that needs must be met on a variety of levels – beginning with the provision of safe and accessible shelter. The report further recognized the need for services that encourage movement out of shelter dependency. The Urban County Government built the facility on West Loudon Avenue and delegated to the Hope Center the primary responsibility for dealing with the adult male homeless population in Lexington. (The Salvation Army undertook primary responsibility for women and families.) The building opened in June, 1993.
Programs Developed by the Hope Center
As the task force report indicated, there is more to dealing with the homeless than simply providing food and shelter. Over time, the number of poor people in this country has grown. At the same time the number of affordable housing units has declined. That means that the competition to get into these housing units has become much harder. Those who lose out in that competition tend to be those who have the most difficulty competing. These include those with addictions and those with mental health issues.
For these reasons, the Hope Center, pursuant to its mandate from the Urban County Government, has sought to address the multiple issues affecting the homeless population. Since 1993 it has developed a variety of programs to do just that.
The shelter opened in June, 1993. This is the Hope Center’s primary function in the sense that it is generally the first service offered to a homeless person. The center offers homeless adult males a place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear. The shelter is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness. The Hope Center Mental Health Program is a team of individuals from the Hope Center and from Bluegrass East Comprehensive Care Center who engage the chronically mentally ill among the homeless, stabilize them, house them and mainstream them back into society. The team provides a wide variety of services, including: psychiatric assessment and evaluation; medication assistance and monitoring; case management services; housing support services; payee services; service referrals; and transportation assistance.
Employment and Transitional Housing
This program is available to those clients who either have no mental health or addiction issues or have progressed to the point of employability. Its purpose should be clear. In order to leave homelessness, one generally needs an income and a place to live. This program assists clients in obtaining jobs and housing. In doing so, it coordinates with and uses the services of the Mayor’s Training Center, the Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Employment Solutions and private employers throughout the community.
In cooperation with the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, the Hope Center provides a free health clinic to its clients. The clinic is staffed by nurses provided by the college, and it works closely with the Lexington Fayette County Health Department.
This is the division that provides temporary assistance for those who need it. Social Services helps clients find a place to live, works with landlords on behalf of clients, assists in claiming Social Security benefits, provides limited transportation and financial assistance and provides other similar services.
Mobile Outreach (the HopeMobile)
This mobile unit is out Monday through Friday helping those who are on the street but won’t seek shelter as well as those who are marginally housed and in danger of losing shelter. The HopeMobile is hosted by various churches around the central part of Lexington. These include Broadway Christian, Calvary Baptist, Maxwell Street Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, Shiloh Baptist and Woodland Christian.
Recovery Program for Men
There is no generally accepted "magic number" with respect to the prevalence of addiction disorders among homeless adults, but it is apparent that addictive disorders do appear disproportionately among the homeless population. The men’s program began in August, 1996. The program generally takes six months or longer to complete. It features a detoxification unit for those who are under the influence when they arrive; a Motivational Track, which requires clients to demonstrate their commitment to entering the program by attending classes and AA or NA meetings for two weeks or longer; a Phase 1 in which the men devote their entire time to learning about addiction, the principles of recovery, the twelve steps and how to plan and live a life free from drugs and alcohol; and a Phase 2 in which the men begin the process of seeking employment and housing outside the facility. The program is progressive in nature and also relies on a set of incentives as each client progresses. It tolerates no usage of drugs or alcohol, is peer-driven and emphasizes personal responsibility and mutual accountability. Twelve months after leaving Phase 1: over 60% have had no relapse; of those with an incidence of relapse, over 80% continue to work on their recovery by attending meetings; and 98% of the men are appropriately housed.
The rising tide of Spanish-speaking immigrants to central Kentucky meant that language barriers grew within the homeless population that came to the Hope Center looking for assistance. This program provides social services and translation for the Hispanic portion of the Hope Center client base. It assists with labor issues and helps employers connect with workers.
Day Labor Program
This service helps homeless clients connect with local employers in need of casual labor. It operates in front of the Loudon Avenue facility beginning at 6 a.m. on weekdays.
Hill Rise Place
Opened in late 2001, Hill Rise Place provides drug and alcohol free housing in an atmosphere dedicated to recovery. Eligible tenants include graduates of our recovery program as well as other similar programs. It is an important continuation of our efforts to take addicted homeless men off the street and move them into stable, sustainable independent living.
This program deals with the special language and cultural issues involved in Hispanic clients in need of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Dual Diagnosis Program
This program deals with clients who suffer from both mental illness and addiction.
Recovery Program for Women
The success of the men’s recovery program led to requests from the community that the Hope Center initiate a similar program for women. This program opened in January, 2002, in a new facility, the Ball-Quantrell Jones Center for Women on Versailles Road. It features the same peer-driven emphasis on personal responsibility and mutual accountability as the men’s program. This unit does not have its own detoxification unit, but otherwise it tracks the same progressive path. It also deals with gender-specific issues.
Detention Center Recovery Program (the Jail Program)
In September, 2002, the Hope Center used its expertise in recovery for difficult populations to begin a recovery program for inmates at the Lexington Fayette Detention Center. Developed in cooperation with the Division of Community Corrections, the program sprang from the fact that there is a substantial direct correlation between substance abuse and offender behavior. By addressing the substance abuse issue, we reduce the risk of repeat offender behavior.
Lexmark International donates 12 acres of land adjacent to the Hope Center and bearing an assessed value of more than $1million. The land will provide a location for a new men’s recovery center and financial benefits for the Hope Center deep into the future.
Recovery Program for Men Groundbreaking
In March, 2007, a crowd gathered to celebrate the ground breaking of the new home to its highly successful men's recovery program. This new center will help homeless alcoholics and addicts find the road to recovery.
Grand Opening of the George Privett Recovery Center
In May, 2008, the grand opening of the George Privett Recovery Center for men was held. This 96-bed facility was named after Dr. George Privett Jr., a long-standing board member and past board chairman of the Hope Center. With this facility the Hope Center will be able to expand its recovery program and serve suffering homeless alcoholics and addicts even more effectively.
The Barbara H. Rouse Apartments is a 44-unit building next to the Ball-Quantrell Jones Center for Women on Versailles Road. The Building was opened in November 2010. The facility provides drug- and alcohol-free permanent housing to women in recovery and provides an atmosphere that supports their continued sobriety. The Hope Center owes thanks for the funding of this building to the Rouse Family Foundation, a Neighborhood Stabilization capital grant awarded by the Kentucky Department for Local Government, and competitive funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.
Currently under construction is a facility located across from the Emergency Shelter, which will provide more housing for the mental health and addiction recovery programs for men.
With the support of Don and Cathy Jacobs, the Don and Cathy Jacobs House and Jacobs Hope Cafeteria became a reality.
The Don and Cathy Jacobs House is a 154 bed facility that houses men who are learning to overcome addiction, mental health issues, employability deficits and other challenges to self-reliant, independent living.
The Jacobs Hope Cafeteria serves three meals a day to those at the Emergency Shelter, the Don and Cathy Jacobs House as well as those in the community. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the year, serving over 450 meals daily.
Today and Tomorrow
The good news is that the Hope Center is meeting more challenges than ever.
As can be seen from the list of programs that have been established, the center is fighting homelessness on a number of fronts. It is going after the root causes of individual homelessness, whether they are found in addiction, mental illness, lack of skills or simply the need to connect with the appropriate resources. The center’s programs are working effectively and efficiently. Each year, it helps more of Lexington’s homeless.
While the Hope Center makes progress, it faces difficult financial times. Governmental support is always uncertain, and costs will always increase. Private fundraising is critical to the success of the Hope Center’s mission.
Despite challenges, the Hope Center will persevere. Since 1993 it has fought the fight. With the help of its many generous supporters, the Hope Center will continue to rebuild lives. The Hope Center will bring hope to those who need it the most.