Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky providing a safe, warm, life-saving shelter for local homeless

Monica Yeamans, Editorial Assistant.

In recent days the nighttime temperatures dropped well below freezing. There are limited beds available in emergency shelters all across this nation not just in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The realities of homelessness are visible on the cities’ street corners and overpasses. This week — National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 16 – 24) — encourages the community not just to see but to gain insight.

Adult, white males and females, 62 or older, are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. They are typically retired, on a fixed income and with rising rents can no longer afford an apartment.

The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky,Covington, is trying to help by providing a safe, warm, life–saving shelter for the local homeless, men and women, ages 18 and up. At the current location this year there are only 32 beds available on a first-come, first–served basis compared to 75 beds in past years at the same location, due to stricter enforcement of fire codes.

The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky is a “low barrier” winter shelter which means, “We remove all the barriers to entrance or as many as we can remove,” said Kim Webb, executive director of the shelter. “We are not asking for a commitment to programming; we don’t require a drug test; we don’t require a background check; we simply are here to provide a life-saving bed for you so you don’t suffer or die outside.”

Thanks to an agreement with the local Salvation Army the 35 or more homeless who would have ordinarily stayed at the Emergency Shelter have a spot on the floor at their gymnasium during the nights below freezing. This is only a temporary solution to a growing homeless population.

The Emergency Shelter must staff the Salvation Army building during the nights it is in use as a shelter and they also must launder all the blankets every day. The staff sets up every evening and must clear the gym every morning. Homeless men and women sleep on Red Cross mats or cots or yoga mats with two or three blankets to keep warm (the gymnasium is cold).

The Emergency Shelter is also responsible for trans- porting the clients to and from the Salvation Army build- ing that is located 12 blocks from the Emergency Shelter building.

“We’re making it work because it is the right thing to do; because it is a human dignity issue,” said Ms. Webb. “We’re keeping people alive … We are dealing with life and death and our focus is on the life.”

A few churches have taken in some homeless in past years to help out — usually in January or February during the coldest months.

“The reality is there are no beds. There are no consistent beds. The churches know the parameters and how hard it is to do this; to operate what deems to be a right to shelter when temperatures are below 32. It is challenging at best. It has stretched us in ways that we never thought we could stretch. In 2019 the fact that we have a growing senior population sleeping on a yoga mats is incredulous,” said Ms. Webb.

Nationally, about two-thirds of homeless people are single adults with 70 percent men, 29 percent women and one percent of people who identify as other, said Ms. Webb. For the most part, seniors are who are homeless do not have an addiction problem but instead are being priced out of apartments. From the winter of 2016–2017 to the winter of 2017–2018 there was an 87 percent increase in seniors that are homeless; many with increasing health issues and with walkers or in wheelchairs.

“It is heartbreaking, heart wrenching,” said Ms. Webb. “We are the only handicap accessible shelter; the only option for them.”

“We have always known that the risk is greater for someone outside our building than inside our building,” said Ms. Webb. “We know that the unsheltered homeless are three times more likely to die outside than someone who is sheltered. We know that across the nation and the state of Kentucky that in other buildings and shelters when they deem it to be a white flag day (bitterly cold) or a weather concern the occupancy changes — it becomes unlimited to a certain degree because they value life. For me, as a Catholic, this is a life issue. Right to life is not just about an unborn baby. This is about the other end, too, of the adults in our community.”

Ms. Webb said that in Northern Kentucky she sees the best of humanity.

“People really do care. This is my faith community and this is what we do,” she said about the people who support the Emergency Shelter.

While the Emergency Shelter is non-denominational, Ms. Webb said, “We know the power of prayer and faith. Our focus is the fact that we meet people where they are when they are in need of a compassionate and non-judgmental way. My job is to keep [them] alive and provide the basic necessities so that [they] can maintain hope and dignity and hopefully have them end their homelessness.”

To help keep homeless men and women warm during the daytime hours and nights above 32 degrees the Emergency Shelter collects and distributes winter hats, gloves, hand warmers, scarves, boots, socks and long johns for their clients. Twin-size blankets are also needed for those who sleep on the gym floor at the Salvation Army building.

Volunteers are needed to help with the blanket washing and drying. Help is also needed with client transportation to and from the Salvation Army building.

For information about the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, Covington, call (859) 291-4555.

In the midst of a faith crisis — the stakes are high

By David Cooley.

I have read many religious resources that state that there is a crisis of faith among Catholic young people. I don’t doubt that at all. Recent studies estimate that only 20 percent of young Catholics are practicing their faith by the age of 22. But I wonder, is there not also a crisis of faith among older generations? I, personally, don’t think the spiritual struggle has an age bias. I think it’s fair to say that young Catholics aren’t going to see their faith lives as important if their parents and relatives don’t see their faith lives as important, at least while they are still in their formative years.

You have to give children and young adults a little credit, they can tell if you really believe or not. They can see how important going to Mass is to you and how much time you spend praying. If you spend most of your time on a cell phone or watching Netflix, that’s probably how they are going to spend most of their time, too. But, we must ask ourselves, is our Catholic faith important enough to spend time on; to sacrifice for? We simply can’t escape the fact that if we are going to pass down the faith we have to know and understand it ourselves. Moreover, we can’t truly understand our faith unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The failure to center our lives on Christ has serious consequences, especially for young people who look up to us for answers.

There is a lot of pressure growing up in today’s world. Youth have to deal with a lot of things that we didn’t have to deal with growing up (social media for example!), and if we do not meet our children where they are they will be bombarded by a culture and a way of life that leads them to nothing but emptiness and sadness.

Three different secular news articles recently caused me to pause and reflect on that fact. The first was from USA Today and was titled “‘Deaths of despair’ from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit young adults hardest.” It reported that drug-related deaths, alcohol deaths and suicides among millennials — a generation typically defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — soared 108 percent, 69 percent and 35 percent respectively. An analysis of the data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the increase for these three “deaths of despair” for people who are 23 to 38 years old were higher than for baby boomers and senior citizens. The article went on to site possible reasons for this, including burdensome levels of debt, difficulty in starting careers and the opioid crisis. Since many millennials have families of their own, these addiction struggles and overall poor mental health conditions could have a serious impact on multiple generations for years to come.

The second article from Daily Mail was titled “Loneliest generation: A quarter of millennials say they have no friends.” The article described an unprecedented sense of loneliness among young adults despite the ability to call, text, e-mail, snap, tweet, post and live stream one another from anywhere on the planet. According to the article there is a vicious cycle involved — isolation takes a toll on mental health, which in turn makes people withdraw and then they become more isolated and depressed. I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume that this sense of isolation is also part of the blame for the surging rates in deaths of despair.

The third and final article was titled “From binge drinking to blacking out, the disturbing epidemic putting America’s kids in danger,” which was featured in CBS News. In short, this article stated that there is a silent pandemic having to do with “the pervasive and problematic drinking culture among American youth.” Binge drinking has not only been normalized but it is also a “marker of social status.” In other words there is a lot of pressure to drink enormous amounts of alcohol at once because “all the cool kids are doing it.” Almost 2,000 college-aged youth are dying every year on college campuses, and it doesn’t seem like this tragedy gets the attention that it deserves.

Millennials and Gen Z seem to be the most stressed out, isolated and depressed generations in recent memory, despite what some might argue, thanks to technological advances, is an easy life. So, what are we missing here? Experts say that millions of young people are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb themselves and escape their stress, and on top of all that we are in the midst of some kind of loneliness epidemic. So much for the carefree days of youth! Isn’t there something else they can turn to? Can’t some of us, who have already learned some truths the hard way, guide our youth toward something better?

People are desperately looking for something to fill a void in their lives. As Catholics we know, as St. Augustine said, that our hearts our restless until they rest in the Lord; however, our society and our culture often remove God from the equation completely or at the very least put him on the back burner as an afterthought. The Church has a wonderful opportunity to once again rise to the occasion to remind a darkened world about the Way, the Truth and the Life. No matter where you are, you are in mission territory. If we don’t do our best to help our youth and our peers understand that life has a purpose and that each one of us is an irreplaceable human being that is loved and made in the image and likeness of God, the consequences will continue to be devastating. Of course we have to first believe all of this ourselves. We must focus on the joy of the Gospel, the goodness and beauty in our world; because, whether you believe it or not, there is so much to live for, to hope for and to share with each other.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Department of Catechesis and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Covington.

Independent review of priests files is underway

‘Diocese of Covington Guarantee’ a financial commitment to passing on Catholic faith

Laura Keener, Editor.

Thomas More University has announced a new initiative aimed at making a TMU education more financially attainable for local students — “The Diocese of Covington Guarantee.” With the Diocese of Covington Guarantee, TMU is affirming its commitment to students from the Diocese of Covington by guaranteeing $20,000 in institutional aid to students who choose TMU.

“In my inauguration speech, I spoke of the importance of providing every student in the Diocese of Covington with a high-quality, affordable Catholic education,” said Joseph Chillo, president, TMU. “The Diocese of Covington Guarantee ensures that all diocesan graduates starting with this year’s high school graduating seniors who meet our admission criteria will be awarded $20,000 in institutional aid.”

The Diocese of Covington Guarantee is not a stand-alone scholarship, said Rebecca Stratton, director of communications, TMU. It is designed to help bridge the gap so that each graduate of a Catholic high school in the diocese receives $20,000 of institutional aid.

Many families who have a student in a Catholic high school in the diocese are familiar with TMU’s Parochial Promise. The Parochial Promise is a $14,000 scholarship offered to any student who graduates from a Catholic high school nationwide and attends TMU. Diocesan high school students attending TMU will still qualify for the Parochial Promise. The Diocese of Covington Guarantee will be added to the Parochial Promise, and any other institutional aid, until the total institutional aid received reaches, but does not exceed, $20,000.

Non-institutional aid — like a student’s KEES money and federal or state grants — may be used in addition to the $20,000 from TMU.

“Our hope is that students from the diocese who qualify for full federal and state grants will have nearly no cost to attend Thomas More with this guarantee in place,” said Ms. Stratton.

All Diocese of Covington graduates who meet the minimum qualifications for admissions — 2.5 GPA and 20 ACT — starting with the graduating class of 2020 qualify for the guarantee. Another convenience for students is that there is not an additional form to complete to apply for the guarantee. A student’s admissions application acts as the application, said Ms. Stratton.

“Every diocesan student that wants to gain a Catholic higher education deserves the assistance to do so,” said President Chillo. “Creating opportunity for our diocesan high schools to effectively position the values and significance of a Catholic higher education begins with our responsibility of being the diocesan university. The values and purpose of Catholic education are significant and relevant and we must do our part to strengthen and advance the important work that was started almost 100 years ago at Villa Madonna College.”

For information visit the Thomas More University website www.university.thomasmore.edu.