New location for Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky a ‘big step’ in addressing homelessness

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

After 12 years, Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky (ESNKY) announced Jan. 8 in conjunction with Kenton County and St. Elizabeth Healthcare that it will be opening doors to a new location in Covington to better assist the homeless.

St. Elizabeth purchased the new property, located at 436 West 13th St., on Dec. 10, 2019, from Steffen’s Tool Rental. St. Elizabeth, which had been providing an urgent care center in ESNKY for the last year, then transferred ownership to Kenton County Dec. 31, which will be operating the shelter under an agreement with ESNKY.

It’s been a long road for ESNKY since it began operating out of Scott Street in 2008. The current location, an old health center, was always meant to be temporary, according to Kim Webb, executive director.

The need for a more appropriate building became apparent this winter. With stricter enforcement of fire codes and occupancy laws, October saw a drastic reduction in the facility’s ability to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness. While in previous winters ESNKY could shelter 75 guests, new code enforcement allows for only 32. Mrs. Webb said she hoped they would get an allowance because the fire board gives local jurisdictions the ability to make exceptions.

“We were the place the police could bring someone all hours of the night,” she explained. Unfortunately, the exception was not granted and this winter has been a strain on the center.

The new location will drastically improve the way the center operates. Geographically, it’s closer to the hospital, the Kenton County Government Center, the new Parish Kitchen and the Career Vocational Center. It is also still on a bus line.

Internally, Mrs. Webb said it’s like having an open canvas to design.

“A building’s size doesn’t make it large or small. Our building here is larger than it seems because it’s so cut up.”

Community donated supplies, beds and non-commercial blankets will make a new home for the center’s guests, designed to suit its purpose with 24-hour sheltering during extreme temperatures, daytime operations like shower and laundry facilities, a kitchen and space for community partners. Instead of one shower, one washer and one dryer for up to 81 guests on a cold night, the new space can be developed to better meet the needs of the community.

There will also be rooms for counseling, mental health services, career coaching and more thorough health services through St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Mrs. Webb said she hopes the new center will be open in time for next winter.

“We’re going to use this (the current) space this winter and for our summer operations until we get the building designed and ready to go by late 2020, November or December,” she said.

Until then, ESNKY will continue to send overflow guests to places such as the Salvation Army and local churches, like Mother of God in downtown Covington.

Mrs. Webb said the shelter truly couldn’t operate without support and leadership from the community, and the will of everyone involved.

About ESNKY’s new home, Bishop Roger Foys said, “In this day and age we too often forget those who are not as fortunate as many people and who have need of something as important as the Emergency Shelter. The Emergency Shelter is a blessing to our community and I am so grateful to all those who in any way have helped to find a new home for it.”

For Mrs. Webb, it’s simply a matter of human dignity. “I try to look at their situation as if I were in it. What would it look like if I were in that neighborhood? What would I want to see? Then I’ll work hard to alleviate those fears and anxieties.”

“Everybody deserves to have a bed to sleep in,” she said.

Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann has been the driving political force behind the new location. He was thrilled that all parties were finally able to come together and accomplish a long-time goal.

“They’re already offering many of these services but they just don’t have the space,” he said. “Once you have the space, then you can start inviting partners in to meet with guests and clients and get them help.”

Mr. Knochelmann sees it as a huge step for bolstering a thriving working population.

“We’ve got all the pieces in the region,” he said. “With the new shelter location, they can kind of be a navigating point.”

He cited a report begun a year and a half ago on the homeless population in Northern Kentucky. Agencies partnered with the state and various cities to gather information.

For the first time, data collected proves that “it’s not a Covington problem, not a joblessness problem,” said Mr. Knochelmann. He instead referenced a region-wide issue that won’t just disappear overnight. “All that data filled into a willingness to say ‘okay, let’s not keep talking a circle around the edges of this issue, let’s actually move forward.’ And this is the first big step.”

He doesn’t want the action to stop here, with the new emergency shelter building. In the story of homelessness, this is just one victory and he intends to keep driving forward discussion for solutions.

“It opens up the bigger discussion around what are we doing in Northern Kentucky to effectively impact the immediate homeless population and do this long term,” he said.

Parents advocate for scholarship tax credits

Laura Keener, Editor.

Two local women — Cassandra Behanan and Nancy Deaton — will be traveling to Frankfort, Jan. 27, along with many others, for the Celebrating School Choice rally. The rally takes place during National School Choice Week, Jan. 26–Feb. 1. Neither claim to be very political, but both share the same passion for school choice and support scholarship tax credit legislation.

Scholarship tax credits would allow individuals or businesses to receive a state tax credit for contributing to a qualified non-profit organization — like the Diocese’s Alliance for Catholic Urban Education — that provide financial aid, or scholarships, to lower income families who choose a non-public school for their child.

Ms. Behanan works in the cafeteria at Zion Christian Academy (ZCA), Florence. She is the mother of five children; two adult children live on their own; her third oldest attends Northern Kentucky University and she has two children in primary school. With only one scholarship available to her at ZCA, Ms. Behanan made the difficult decision to have her youngest child join her at ZCA while keeping her middle-school aged son at the local public school.

“When I started working here and I saw how the school was run and how the children were learning, just the consistency, I thought if I couldn’t get both of them here right now, at least I could get one here,” Ms. Behanan said.

But moving her son to ZCA has taken on an added urgency. Last year her son encountered racism that led to a physical retaliation. And while she understands her son’s punishment for hitting another student, she was disappointed that the other student received no consequence for calling her son “the N word.”

“This was his first experience with racism and my son didn’t understand it. I had to explain to him that since he is bi-racial this may be the first time but it won’t be the last time,” she said.

Ms. Behanan has talked to her son on better ways to handle racism but she feels he would have a better social and academic experience that would ultimately help him be more successful at ZCA. At ZCA, Ms. Behanana said, the faculty and administration have the time to handle student conflicts before they escalate to a physical confrontation.

“Here if children have disagreements they sit down and talk it out and work it out. I’ve seen it work,” she said.
Seeing how different school environments can impact a child’s education motivates Ms. Behanan to advocate for Scholarship Tax Credits.

“When this opportunity came I couldn’t do nothing but run with it because I have a child in a public school and a private school, wishing they were both in a private school,” she said.

Nancy Deaton’s great grandson is a middle-school student at Holy Trinity School, Bellevue. When he was very young her grandson experienced a serious fall and suffers with a traumatic brain injury. His skull was fractured in several places requiring multiple surgeries and hospitalizations and a helmet.

In addition to his physical challenges, her grandson also bears the emotional burden of having a mother that is incarcerated and an absent father.

When it came time for him to go to elementary school, she wanted a small, private school where he “wouldn’t be put aside,” she said.
“I’m not criticizing public schools by any means — they do a good job and they are there to help any child — but he needed a little bit more feeling of security and he was able to get that in a smaller school,” Ms. Deaton said.

Ms. Deaton said now her grandson is “a regular” child.

“He has an emotional story and when I think about it, it brings the emotion back to it and my heart hurts,” she said. “Now I wonder how I did it.”

She said she is grateful for the scholarship that enabled her grandson to attend a private school and thinks more families should be able to choose a private school for their children, which is why she supports scholarship tax credits.

“Education is an absolute necessity and it should be offered at the school that will best serve the child, not because of your financial status or who you know. Hopefully Kentucky will pass the bill and it will do exactly what it is supposed to do — help children.”

For more information on Scholarship Tax Credits visit www.edchoicky.com. For information on National School Choice Week visit www.schoolchoiceweek.com. 

Thomas More earns university status

The Thomas More College Board of Trustees announced Sept. 28 that the college would officially become Thomas More University effective Oct. 1. Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education formally granted university status to the college in July. While full implementation of Thomas More’s name change will take place over the coming 2018-2019 academic year, the college rolled out its new identity at the end of last week, wrapping up a weeklong series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Crestview Hills campus dedication.

The new university designation celebrates the evolution and success of the college, and it positions Thomas More to leverage its expanding academic offerings, including new graduate programs in ethical leadership studies and athletic training, as well as an array of online programs. The transition to university will necessitate a new organizational structure by creating three distinct colleges and one new institute: College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Education and Health Sciences, and Institute for Ethical Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The college’s breadth of academic programs has been enriched by recent growth in its physical facilities. This fall, Thomas More will open a new residence hall on its campus, a new STEM Outreach Center at its Biology Field Station on the Ohio River, and it will further expand its campus footprint with the new Center for Health Sciences (in partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare) and a Performing Arts Laboratory, both located in Edgewood within walking distance of the campus core. The college has also witnessed significant growth in its endowment, donor contributions, co-curricular programs and enrollment — welcoming the largest incoming class in the school’s history this fall.

“This is a landmark event, and we believe it is the right time in our history to assume the university moniker,” said Kathleen Jagger, acting president of Thomas More. “In 2021, we will mark our centennial anniversary, and this transition to university is the first in a series of strategic moves we are making to position Thomas More for its next century of work.”

Dr. Jagger noted that the new designation will enhance the school’s expansion, marketing and branding efforts as it seeks to position itself, its students and its faculty on the global stage. Dr. Jagger explained that the term “college” in many places around the world actually refers to high schools. “Our new identity as Thomas More University should translate into greater credibility on the international stage for both our students and for those students from other countries who might want to choose an education here.”

“The Board of Trustees is proud to share this momentous announcement with our community,” said Marc Neltner, chairman of the Thomas More College Board of Trustees. “As Thomas More continues to innovate, our commitment to our students remains steadfast. Thomas More University will continue to provide the exceptional, values-based education that has given us our reputable status as a Catholic institution grounded in the liberal arts, while offering new, expanded professional and integrative academic programs.”

Bishop Foys’ statement on current sex abuse crisis

My dear Friends in Christ,

A Pennsylvania Grand Jury released, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, a report detailing the names of 301 priests who sexually abused over 1,000 minors over a 70-year period in that State. This report, coupled with the recent revelations regarding the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and seminaries in Boston, Mass., and Lincoln, Neb., has shocked and angered God’s people, including myself.

These revelations call to mind for me, as I am sure it does for many of you, 16 years ago when we, in the Diocese of Covington, faced a similar crisis. It was an extremely difficult time for us as a Diocese — for our people, for our priests, for me and most especially for the victims of sexual abuse.

Meeting individually with over 200 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by priests changed my life. I have seen the pain in their eyes and in many instances shared their tears from their experiences. Their pain lives in my heart and impacts every decision I make in my quest to protect children and vulnerable adults. I will carry their pain with me to the Bishops’ Conference in November as we again discuss the concrete changes that need to occur within the governance of the Church to better address the sin of sexual abuse within the Church.

Pope Francis, in his Aug. 20 statement concerning the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, said, “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening.”

I assure you that in our Diocese we will continue to do everything we can to address this issue. I commit myself to acknowledging and working together, with our priests and people, toward this important task, that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening.”

Let us begin by placing ourselves in Christ’s hands. Please join me in praying for the victims of child sexual abuse by clergy, that they may find peace and healing in the arms of Christ. Pray also for the good and faithful priests who, with me, are humiliated and disheartened by the sins of their brother priests, that they may continue to live faithful lives in the example of Christ.

Christ, alone, suffered death on the Cross to redeem us from our sins. Now, Jesus, we place our trust in You.

Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Most Rev. Roger J. Foys, D.D.

Bishop of Covington