Numerous factors contributing to low-income Kentucky families, consultants tell newly empaneled House committee

06/01/2016 04:53 PM

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky is making some progress in it’s overall homeless population, but the number of vulnerable citizens continues to grow.

That was the message from experts who testified at the first House Task Force on Vulnerable Kentuckians meeting on Wednesday in Louisville.

According to Cabinet of Health and Family Services statistics, 19 percent of Kentuckians are living below the poverty level.

Demographic and economic consultant Ron Crouch says one of the biggest factors for that percentage is that many jobs being created now come with low pay.

“What we’re seeing now is a new reality where a lot of the jobs we’re creating pay less than in the past,” Crouch said. “We’ve lost a lot of those blue-collar jobs that were headed by males in mining and manufacturing, and we’re creating more jobs in food services, accommodations. We’re creating more jobs in health care, but some of those health care jobs are low-paying.”

Crouch said he would like to see legislators partner with groups who work with the homeless and low-income families to provide resources that would allow more vulnerable citizens to move from the shadows of poverty.

“I think it’s more not a handout, but a helping hand,” Crouch said. “We have to help people help themselves. We may need support services for those people to help them get on their feet.”

According to Kentucky Housing Coalition statistics, Kentucky has 4,852 homeless people in the state, which represents a 10.3 percent increase since 2010.

But according to Curtiss Stauffer of the Homeless and Housing Coalition, the numbers have been slowly improving in recent years. In fact, Jefferson County has seen its homeless population decrease 12 percent from 2014 to 2015 and drop 23 percent overall since 2012.

“We’re making strides, both in our big cities of Lexington and Louisville as well as the balance of the state of Kentucky, about reducing overall homelessness,” Stauffer said. “That’s because we prioritize what’s called Housing First, which gets people into permanent supported housing without precondition.”

Other causes related to vulnerable citizens are mental illness and senior citizens unable to survive on their limited Social Security income.

Roxanna Trivitt, of Shively Area Ministries, which provides food to 750 families a month in southwest Jefferson County, says that hardships have led to tough circumstances for some Kentucky residents.

“We have more areas where they’re living under viaducts, in the woods. They’re communities within themselves,” Trivitt said. “In the last 10 years, we went from serving 15 to 25 families a day to 45 to 55 families a day, andnd that’s just all since 2008.”

Rep. Jim Wayne, a Louisville Democrat who chairs the task force, said the biggest takeaway from the inaugural meeting was that there are multiple factors that cause families to struggle financially.

“We have major problems with employment, with education, with healthcare, and this just isn’t a small minority of our population,” Wayne said. “It is everywhere in the state.”


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