November 22, 2021

Moving Forward - 2021 KLC Homelessness Summit: Housing and Hope

The Kentucky League of Cities Homelessness Summit: Housing and Hope on November 9 brought together nearly 200 city officials, nonprofit professionals, service providers, housing experts and other community leaders. Attendees experienced the passion and commitment of the presenters and panelists. The first-time event inspired great participant feedback and interest in moving forward with more on these topics. Here are some key takeaways from the event. 

Homelessness Overview 

Lexington’s Director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, Polly Ruddick, provided an eye-opening overview explaining why we are seeing a rise in housing insecurity. At its core is lack of affordable housing.

  • Who experiences homelessness? Someone’s parent, sibling, or child- anyone. 
  • The fastest growing population experiencing homelessness is the elderly. 
  • 40% of all Kentucky households report spending over 30% of their income on rent; 79% of Kentucky households (30% AMI and below) report paying over 30% of their income on rent; 66% of Kentucky households (30% AMI and below) report paying over 50% of their income on rent. 
    • This means they have very little left for food, medicine, clothing, transportation, and other necessities.
  • Ruddick said people experience homelessness because we lack a support system to keep them housed during times of crisis or instability. These situations can include unemployment, stagnant wages, unaffordable housing costs, or situations like domestic violence, medical emergencies, substance use disorders, mental illness, or death of a partner (particularly among the elderly). In many areas, there is no way to afford housing on current wages. 
  • In Kentucky, we are seeing a sharp rise in unaffordable housing for individuals who work at groceries, big box stories, in healthcare and childcare facilities, and even some city employees. 
  • There are thousands of unhoused persons in Kentucky. Based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD’s Point in Time definition, between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals in Kentucky are literally homeless, living on the street or in a shelter. 
  • Beyond that definition, many people are ‘doubled up’ with family or friends, bouncing from one place to another without a permanent residence.
  • There are huge gaps statewide for affordable and available housing. In fact, studies from 2017-2019 estimate that Kentucky is short between 78,000 – 100,000 affordable homes to rent. And COVID only made it worse.

Impacting our Future 

The most recent statistics also show that there are more than 24,000 school-aged children and youth in housing transition. Add to that the 1 in 14 children under the age of 6 experiencing housing insecurity in Kentucky, and you quickly understand the problem is bigger than most people realize.

Housing Resources 

The Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) is the funding source for most federal housing-related funds. With some exceptions, cities do not receive direct funding, so it is important for cities to understand what is happening in their jurisdiction and region regarding housing funds. Do you have housing authorities seeking funds? Are there nonprofits developing housing or homeless related projects? Are city leadership and citizens open to affordable housing developments? Only if city officials know can they contribute to the effort already being made.

  • The Continuum of Care (CoC) refers to the pool of money that goes to fund housing projects in the “balance of state” outside of Lexington and Louisville, both of which receive their own funding from HUD and other sources. 
  • KHC is a great place to start if your city interested in learning more about resources and funding for housing. 
  • Beyond new housing, there are many KHC programs to address rehabilitation and repairs, which are big drivers of blight and possible vacating of homes. 
  • KHC is currently looking at the best ways to utilize ARPA funding. It conducted focus groups/surveys among stakeholders, including city officials. 
  • Review the Kentucky Housing Corporation Resources here.

Affordable Housing Development 

Developers that specialize in affordable housing and rehabilitation addressed what is required for them to come into a community and develop projects.

  • There are various types of funding for affordable housing projects including federal and state historic tax credits, low-income housing tax credits, Community Development Block Grants, KHC funding, National Stabilization program, TCAP/Exchange, Federal Home Loan Bank AHP Program and Affordable Housing Trusts/Funds (such as Lexington and Louisville). 
  • “Not in my back yard” (NIMBY) myths about affordable housing units – There’s a misconception that units detract from the community instead of add value to neighborhoods. Some recent projects in Kentucky’s cities are even developed as mixed-use downtown ventures. 
  • Adrienne Bush, Executive Director of Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky is happy to work with city officials and give community presentations, provide real data and evidence about the myth that providing services will attract people experiencing homelessness. (See contacts on link below). 
    • What do developers need most from communities interested in affordable housing
    • Community leaders on the same page
    • Appropriate Planning & Zoning and infrastructure in place
    • Flexibility to solve issues that arise
    • Realization that it takes time (maybe up to two years from start to finish)


For information on panhandling and ordinances, contact Chris Johnson, KLC Municipal Law Attorney.

Veterans Village in Shelbyville 

The Veterans Village in Shelbyville is one example of a program specifically meeting the needs of veterans by establishing a micro community of transitional tiny homes. Operated by Awake Ministries in Shelbyville, the village has strict requirements. Only the veteran may live in the facility, no drug use or crime is tolerated, and most important is the commitment by residents to move forward to permanent housing. View a video about the Veteran’s Village.

Next Steps to Move Ahead 

Cities that are serious about taking action for people experiencing homelessness and/or learning more about overall affordable housing solutions can consider the following:

  • Admit that the problem exists and impacts real people. 
  • Know that the solution will take collaboration, resolve and commitment. 
  • Gather the facts, current services, gaps, and resources. 
  • Convene - The city can serve as a community convener to discuss issues and create a plan. 
  • Designate someone to lead the effort –a city employee or someone else. 
  • A goal should be to think about persons experiencing homelessness and look at current local and regional wrap around services. As part of the process, ask homeless individuals what they need. 
  • To assess what exists, invite community stakeholders to participate including existing service and social services providers and nonprofits, businesses, schools, jails, county attorney, judges, soup kitchens, food pantries, veterans’ organizations, churches and the ministerial association, public libraries, postal workers, utilities and code enforcement staff, police, fire, EMS and other first responders, hospitals and clinics, and mental health providers. 
  • Use the “KLC Step-by-Step Guide to Engaging the Public at a Town Hall Meeting” to get started.

All of the expert panelists and presenters emphasized that collaboration and partnerships are the keys to addressing housing insecurity and lack of affordable housing. These issues affect rural, urban, and suburban communities impacting people throughout society and right around the corner. Watch a success story featuring a small business owner in the City of Bardstown.

KLC will continue to partner with experts to provide information and resources to cities and communities. We are also in the process of creating a static resources page on on housing and homelessness. Read the KLC DirectLine enewsletter for details, as well as information on upcoming education, detailed sessions around homelessness and housing issues coming in 2022. 

2021 KLC Homelessness Summit: Housing & Hope 

Speaker Contacts 

List of Services and Housing Resources by County/Region 

For more information on KLC’s ongoing homelessness and housing initiatives, contact Member Relations Manager Terri Johnson.