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Lexington officials say teamwork required to help the city's homeless

Stu Johnson
Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Director Jeff Herron Before Lexington Council Members

The director of Lexington’s Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention says focused attention on specific individuals can help lead to permanent housing. Jeff Herron offered an update to Lexington’s General Government and Social Services Committee Tuesday. Herron said a cross-functional team consists of those working in mental health services, law enforcement, code enforcement, and paramedicine.

“And it’s within those meetings that we go through, case by case, and look at individuals who are disproportionately utilizing our systems and developing tailored solutions that are going to meet the needs of those individuals,” said Herron.

Herron reported the Lexington community, through its point in time counting, has seen a 54% reduction in homelessness since 2014. He said that includes those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and the unsheltered. Herron said the unsheltered count this past winter was 32 out of a total of 715.

Herron spoke about the difference between true homelessness and street-involved.

“In doing this work professionally there’s also been other locations that I know we have had reports of things that are going on and when we dig a little bit deeper sometimes we find out that this is more of a hangout spot than it is persons that are actually residing or sleeping outdoors,” said Herron.

Herron said street-outreach teams can’t address all the issues and there are times when police need to be contacted about suspected criminal activity. He noted an ongoing goal in managing homelessness is to shift away from a shelter to permanent housing. Lexington was recognized in 2019 for ending veteran homelessness. Herron added it still occurs, but when it does, quick action is taken to re-house veterans.

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 30 years.
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