The newly released figures from the statewide count of the homeless, called K-Count, show the number has increased by about 600 over the past three years. The vast majority are not chronically homeless or living on the street.
The 2019 count of the homeless, coordinated by Kentucky Housing Corporation, shows that 4,079 people were in shelters, transitional housing or unsheltered on a designated day at the end of January.
This year that 'point-in-time' count was done by community organizations on Jan. 30.
In 2018 there were 3,688 homeless individuals counted across Kentucky. In 2017, that number was about 3,400.
Shaye Rabold, state coordinator for K-Count, said only about 13 percent of the people counted are considered chronically homeless. The others often could not afford to pay their rent, or other housing costs, because of the loss of a job or other financial crisis.
“When you look at homelessness, there are a lot of people who become homeless at one point throughout the year for whatever reason, but it’s not always reasons that we might assume in a stereotypical way, which are related to drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness,” said Rabold.
She said an important factor in addressing the issue of homelessness is for communities to develop the right mix of affordable housing for the demographics of the region, especially one-bedroom apartments, because there's often a shortage of those smaller units. Rabold said under most federal programs that serve the homelss, a single individual without children can't get housing assistance to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
Rabold said military veterans are one group that’s had a decrease in homelessness. That’s because of federal programs that provide funding for social services and permanent housing for veterans.
Some who are included in K-Count may not be commonly thought of as homeless, such as men, women and children in shelters because of domestic violence.
Tori Henninger is executive director of the domestic violence shelter, Barren River Area Safe Space (BRASS).
She said her group leads the effort by area organizations to count the homeless who are harder to find.
“We try to work within the entirety of our 10-county region to make sure that unsheltered individuals are also being counted," said Henninger. "Sometimes that’s working with volunteers in those counties, sometimes it’s working with law enforcement who may come upon a homeless individual who’s unsheltered that evening.”
Statewide, there were 2,778 people in emergency shelters in 2019, as well as 522 in transitional housing and 779 unsheltered.
In the 2018 K-Count, 2,340 people were in emergency shelters, 480 in transitional housing, and 866 were unsheltered.
In a snapshot of some of the county results of K-Count, Warren County had 121 homeless in 2019, compared to 162 the previous year.
In Daviess County, 204 homeless were counted in 2019, while 224 were counted in 2018.
Pulaski County had 24 homeless as of the 2019 K-Count, while 22 were counted the prevous year.
The state count is required to apply to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding for homeless programs.