Forum aims to help homeless

Taylor Harrison

The South Central Kentucky Coalition on Homelessness hosted a forum Tuesday on ways to prevent homelessness.

The coalition doesn’t just talk about ways to help the community. They actively do it.

A woman who needed a place to stay recently contacted Leah Ashwill, the director of the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships. She had heard Ashwill talking about the homelessness forum on the radio.

“Those are the types of moments that make you very glad to be doing what you do for a living in the realm of social services,” Ashwill said.

Ashwill said this woman left her boyfriend of eight years while he was asleep.

“When she called she was just like, ‘Well I guess I’m homeless,’” Ashwill said. “And she’s now staying at a shelter and getting the resources she needs. That’s what it’s all about. Those phone calls make you feel like, you know, you’re making a difference.”

The woman, who is staying with the Barren River Area Safe Space, wishes to stay anonymous for safety reasons.

She said when she heard Ashwill on the radio, she was living in her car. Now she is searching for an apartment. “There’s a lot of places here that are very helpful and that’s willing to help, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she said. “Well, if you’re hungry on Monday, what’s Tuesday and Thursday going to do?”

During the forum, Bill Waltrip, a Bowling Green city commissioner, read a proclamation declaring this week Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Waltrip said city government could do more to help with the coalition’s mission.

“We live in a very nice community,” Waltrip said. “I don’t know that any one of us in this room would probably disagree with that. But I also have to tell you, we can do better in this area.”

Dick Freed, chairperson of the coalition, discussed the coalition’s goals before the forum broke up into separate discussion groups. He said their main vision is to have a centralized resource for homeless people and families within the community who need help.

Freed said to help prevent homelessness, it’s important to look at the root causes, such as job training issues, mental or physical health problems and substance abuse.

“The majority of people who are homeless are homeless either because they’ve made some bad choices or because they’ve been overwhelmed by things that are out of their control,” Freed said. “A lot of the time, it’s a combination of the two. And so you try to help people on both sides of that.”