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Faith leaders demand Lexington officials address growing housing costs, mental health care and gun violence

 Faith leaders spoke to Lexington Fayette Urban County Councilmembers at BUILD 2022.
Corinne Boyer
Faith leaders spoke to Lexington Fayette Urban County Councilmembers at BUILD 2022.

An estimated 2,000 people from 27 congregations gathered in Lexington on Tuesday. Faith leaders and members of BUILD, or Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action, demanded that city officials address affordable housing, mental health care treatment and gun violence.

So far this year 11 adults have been killed — eight of those deaths involve guns. Last year, 37 people were killed in Lexington.

Pastor Richard Gaines of Consolidated Baptist Church said the number of killings has risen in Lexington even after experts made recommendations to the city.

“We are here to repair tonight a future where people aren't gunned down in our streets,” Gaines said. “A future where we don't bring another record for homicides every year. A future where it’s safe to allow the children to play in the backyard or at the park.”

Gaines said he was disappointed Mayor Linda Gorton did not attend. A spokesperson for Gorton said she had a scheduling conflict and met with members of BUILD before the event.

Faith leaders said another issue of concern is the wealth gap that was widened by the pandemic and many people are falling behind.

Lexington’s Housing Commissioner Charlie Lanter said the city has designated $28 million to affordable housing since 2014. Lanter said 600 affordable housing units are under construction.

“We have a lot of work to do, and a long way to go. But we'll get there. Fortunately, we still have millions available to allocate and more to come,” Lanter said.

Many leaders said better public transportation options are also crucial for the most vulnerable. People who need mental health care treatment can spend a few hours taking multiple buses and walking long distances to get to appointments.

Vallis Pennington spoke about his struggles with mental illness and transportation.

“I just got a car, it was tough. But until now I had to walk everywhere,” Pennington said. “And in all the elements of weather and begged and bummed for rides.”

Mayoral candidates David Kloiber and Adrian Wallace, spoke in favor of BUILD’s solutions—particularly Group Violence Intervention.

“One of the core tenets is to empower the community to work on behalf of the purpose of lowering that violence,” Kloiber said. “We need a new solution. Because what we've been doing isn't working.”

If elected, Wallace said he would immediately implement GVI prevention.

“I will work to expand and strengthen the network of partners that it takes to reduce violent crime in our community,” Wallace said.

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