Saturday, January 11, 2003

Cold weather shelter opens to serve N.Ky.'s homeless



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Pat Clark of the Northern Kentucky Housing and Homeless Coalition plugs in a coffee pot as Tom Cook of Baltimore waits inside the cold weather shelter that opened Friday night in Covington.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
COVINGTON - With temperatures expected to dip near the single digits this weekend, a Northern Kentucky shelter opened on Covington's east side Friday night.

The severe weather emergency shelter will be for the homeless, people who have to choose between heating their home and paying for food or medicine, and stranded travelers who need a place to get out of the cold, supporters said.

Although estimates of Northern Kentucky's homeless vary, it's especially hard for men to find emergency shelter because the 14 beds for men are almost always filled, advocates for the homeless say.

The 33-bed shelter in the newly renovated Elohim Christian Center, an outreach ministry at 1205 Maryland Ave., will help fill a critical need, said Jennifer Shofner, chairwoman of the Northern Kentucky Housing and Homeless Coalition.

"We're absolutely thrilled that it's open," said Ms. Shofner, who called Northern Kentucky social service agencies Friday morning to let them know about the shelter's opening.

"Across the river, the Drop-Inn Center is open 24/7 and has 300 shelter beds; but Northern Kentucky has very few shelter beds, especially for men."

During hot weather emergencies, there are a dozen air-conditioned sites, including senior centers and the Community Action Commission offices, Ms. Shofner said. But on winter nights, options are limited.

The shelter will serve the indigent from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on nights when the temperature drops below 30 degrees. It will be staffed by volunteers.

"We are fortunate to now have a cold weather shelter available to people in Northern Kentucky before the defined cold weather emergency level of zero degrees Fahrenheit," said Gary Crum, public health director of the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department.

People at risk include senior citizens, babies sleeping in cold rooms, anyone with a chronic illness, people who can't afford to heat their homes properly, and people who stay outside in severe weather for extended periods, Dr. Crum said.

When temperatures are predicted to drop low enough so that the new shelter will be open, a fax tree will notify groups such as emergency management personnel, TANK and the Northern Kentucky Housing and Homeless Coalition, Ms. Shofner said. The latter will inform local social service agencies about the shelter's opening so that potential users can be notified.

So far, Elohim Ministries has raised about $2,000 of the $20,000 needed to operate the new shelter, said the Rev. Joseph Andino, senior pastor of the Elohim Christian Center.

Recently, 30 shelter volunteers were trained, and more will be trained in February.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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