Forum focues on issue of homelessness

Taylor Harrison

The South Central Kentucky Coalition on Homelessness is hosting a second annual forum tomorrow morning that will focus on homelessness prevention and other issues regarding homelessness in the Bowling Green community.

The forum will be tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church on State Street. Sarah Arnold, a social worker who is the secretary of the coalition, said last year’s forum focused on educating the community on what homelessness really is.

“It seems like a lot of people don’t think that it exists,” Arnold said. “The focus of this year’s forum is to kind of show the general public some of the barriers that individuals that are homeless face.”

Arnold said the coalition consists of people from organizations like Community Action, Habit for Humanity and Hotel, Inc., among others.

At the forum, Arnold said they will discuss how it can be difficult for homeless people to get to organizations where people will help them or services for them are offered. Another topic will be strategies to reduce homelessness.

The first 15 minutes or so of the forum will be an overview of the coalition — what they do and how they got started. Then the group will be signing a proclamation with the assistance of Bill Waltrip, a Bowling Green city commissioner.

“The proclamation is just a big statement that says, you know, this week will be hunger and homelessness awareness week and it lists some of the agencies that are working together to make sure that there is awareness brought about in the community,” Arnold said.

After that, the forum will break up into different sessions that will each discuss various topics on homelessness, such as transitional housing and economic development.

“I’m a social worker and I’ve worked a number of different places in the community and I see the struggle that people have,” Arnold said.

Leah Ashwill, the director of the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships, is also involved with the coalition. She said she is involved both as a representative of the ALIVE Center, but also because it is a topic she cares about.

“Homelessness is something that we’ve definitely seen more of in recent years due to the economy,” Ashwill said. “You know, most people don’t realize that we have a homelessness problem in Bowling Green.”

Ashwill said she thinks the coalition is effective in how they’re creating awareness of homelessness in the community. She said it’s also important to find out what’s causing homelessness in order to help.

“Until we can begin to address what caused people to become homeless in the first place, you know, you’re not going to see a change in those numbers,” Ashwill said.

Ashwill is looking forward to the event and said it will create a greater level of awareness about homelessness. At last year’s forum, she said more than 100 people showed up.

“Homeless individuals have been involved in the planning of this event,” Ashwill said. “We have a lady who plans to speak tomorrow about some of the challenges she faces in getting out of homelessness. You know, how do you break the cycle?”