Numerous people around the world view America as the land of opportunity, and some people actually consider America to be somewhat a land of paradise. In reality, there are people in our great nation in all settings – rural, small towns, cities, and huge metropolitan areas – who are actually homeless and in need of assistance.
If you are a regular reader of my ariticles, you already know that the subject of homelessness frequently appears in the content. The reason for this is that being homeless impacts people medically. If you can’t afford medical or dental care, are unable to buy nutritious food, and are sleeping outside in nature’s elements, your overall helath will decline.
Today I want to address the current resources that Lexington has for those who are homeless, marginally housed, in need of mental or dental care, or food. This article will be based on my personal awareness of Lexington resources. I’m sure that I’ll overlook some programs, but this isn’t intentional. I can only write what I know or have experienced.
Sunday night on TV, a two-hour special appeared on Extreme Home Makovers hosted by Ty Pennington. The staff of this program review tapes submitted by people who simply need better housing. The inhabitants are sent on a one week vacation, and the current structure is either remodeled or a new structure is totally built during this one week period. (Fascinating! – only 7 days, but remember, the Lord built our entire universe in only 6 days then rested on the 7th.)
The subject group highlighted Sunday night was military veterans who become homeless after their tour of active duty ends and it becomes necessary to reintegrate into society as a civilian. Due to the current deployment of military personnel to Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other areas around the world, the issue of homelessness for those who leave the military is at an all time high.
The two hour special was excellent and extremely informative because it depicted a transitional housing program for women and their children in the Carolinas called The Jubile House. This available resource grew exponentially during the show by the utilization of several resources both locally and nationally. This was accomplished by all of the resources coming together cohesively to enhance and increase the end product. Our First Lady, Michelle Obama, actively paticipated as well as did Sears, a local college, and numerous others.
The local government, churches, and other entities in Lexington have done a great job of making both temporary and permanent housing available for those who need it. As I watched this program spellbound, I began to wonder what the end result would be if more people became aware of the further needs in Lexington.
Let’s first look at what already exists. Local shelters that provide housing, clothing, and food:
*** Salvation Army at 736 West Main Street – phone 859-252-7706 or 7707. This shelter accepts single women, women with children, and men with children. They don’t accept unmarried couples.
*** The Men’s Hope Center Emergency Shelter at 360 West Loudon Avenue – phone 859-389-9820 or 252-7881. This shelter accepts men only.
*** The Community Inn at 824 Winchester Road – phone 859-514-7120. This is an overnight shelter but doesn’t provide storage for personal belongings. They also don’t serve meals.
There are numerous programs that provide prepared meals with nutritional balance:
*** The Lighthouse at 185 Elm Tree Lane – phone number 859-259-3434. Lunch is served at noon every Monday through Saturday and the last Sunday of the month. A devotion is held before the meal begins so that participants are feed spiritually as well as physically.
*** Consolidated Baptist Church at 1625 Russell Cave Road – phone 859-299-8559. Lunch is served each Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. A spritual devotion is also given.
*** The downtown Central Library on Main Street. An evening meal is made available each day at 5:00 p.m. Local participants affectionately call this “The Hope Mobile.”
Those who need food that they can prepare themselves can utilize any of the many local God’s Pantries usually housed in churches. You can receive information on different locations by calling the central food bank whose phone number is 859-255-6592. You can obtain basic food commodities on a walk-in basis. If you require food from all food groups, you do need a referral. How you do this can be explained when you call the central food bank.
The Salvation Army provides baked goods such as bread, donuts, cookies, pies, and cakes. Their public food supply is housed in their shelter building (as opposed to the administrative building) and is open from 9:00 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday. Clothing is also available at this location. You are allowed to obtain 20 food or clothing items every 30 days.
Local resources for medical and dental care will appear in the continuation of this article that will be posted later this week. I now want to move to the subject of what is needed additionally. It is true that sometimes I have an idealistic view of what could be if people simply came together and practiced love and understanding to the degree that the Bible teaches. There exists a modern saying that essentially challenges, “If you’re going to dream, dream big.”
It is my opinion that the greatest ommision that currently exists is those people who ‘slip through the cracks.’ I have become aware of this first hand.
During the year 2010, I met a young male who was frequently in the Central Library on Main Street or outside on a bench enjoying beautiful weather and interacting with his peers. I didn’t ask him his name for months. Lavell has never (to this date) asked mine because he nicknamed me “Mizz Pretty.” That immediately got my attention. What aging 57 year old female wouldn’t answer to that name?
Over the next few months, he would approach me when he needed assistance or encountered somone that needed help. The first person that he sent my way was actually a young veteran who had been on active duty in Iraq and arrived in Lexington, which is not his hometown, on a bus. As I was walking through the downtown area Lavell came walking briskly toward me stating, “Here’s Mizz Pretty. I told you that we could find her. She’ll know what to do.”
I instructed the young veteran to come with me, and periodically he would ask, “Where exactly are we going?” I would answer, “To a church” and assure him that my only intent was to help him.
Our destination was Pyramid Professional Resources that is located at 166 Market Street in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral. This program assists those who are homeless, marginally housed, or have criminal backgrounds. It is a multi-disicplinarian program that provides case management to those in need.
This program includes assistance with resumes, access to computers, a clothing bank, a washer and dryer, shower facilities, storage lockers, bus passes, and assistance with medical expenses such as doctor office visits and prescriptions. (In order to receive these much needed benefits, you must apply and be accepted into the program, then attend classes there on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Their phone number is 859-252-0521.)
The young veteran was able to wash his clothes, take a shower, use a computer, and speak with the RN who founded the program – Ruth Marks. She made some phone calls on his behalf and gave him the address of the VA Medical Center on Cooper Drive. When I saw him and Lavell later that week in the library, he told me that a VA case manager was assisting him to file for monetary benefits that would enable him to rent an apartment. This was a great outcome.
The next situation involves another population that often ‘slips through the cracks’ – those individuals with serious mental illness. Knowing that I have a history of being a psychiatric nurse, Lavell directed a young male to me that was having auditory and visual halluciinations. The gentleman, who was crying, first asked if I was scared to talk to him stating, “Most people don’t want to talk to me because I’m crazy.”
The first question that I asked him was whether or not he was having any thoughts of hurting himself or others. After he assured me of both his and my personal safety, we sat and talked.
He showed me bottles of prescription medications, some of which were empty. His main priority was to find a physician that could treat both his physical and psychiatric issues. I provided him with the best resource that I know, which is Blue Grass Community Health Center at 1306 Versaille Road. Their phone number is 859-254-7874. They provide medical service without charge or on a sliding scale based on income.
He expressed concern regarding the location explaining that he was unable to utilize the Lex Tran public bus system because he couldn’t be within closed spaces due to the hallucinations. I assured him that it was a walkable distance. After I drew him a map, he thanked me and embarked on the journey.
When I next saw him, he was stable, totally oriented to reality, and able to provide me with directions to The Lexington Catholic Action Center on 400 East 5th Street. When he realized that I was going there immediately to obtain written information about their services, he offered to accompany me. We had an interesting conversation as we strolled through the downtown area on a beautiful autumn day.
Let me stress that I have no extraordinary powers or talents. I simply have a RN degree and serve a loving and mighty God who places people in my path and presents me with the opportunity to practice the Biblical command that is found in Matthew 25:40. It reads, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (New King James Version)
As I indicated earlier, part two of this article will be posted later this week. In the meantime, if you are blessed to have adequate housing and food, consider getting involved in Lexington’s community effort to aid those in need.
Remember, one person CAN make a difference, and together, we can really rock this city!!!
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