Summer brings not only warmer weather, but some long awaited relief from Covid 19. The last several weeks have shown we are able to relax a little. Currently about 32% of Lee County has received the vaccine. In a few days, the Lee County Health Department will have some help from the National Guard and will bring the vaccine to your home to make it easier to be vaccinated. We will be advertising the process as we learn more.
On June 11, all the Governor’s Executive Orders will be rescinded. This doesn’t mean the threat of Covid is gone, but that we all know how to deal with it and can weigh the risks and make our own decisions. Speaking with the District Health Director last week, one benefit to the mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing has been the virtual elimination of flu as a disease in our district over the last year. I encourage all to consider keeping up the aggressive hygiene, mask wearing if in a susceptible group, and practicing social distancing when possible. Don’t forget, if you do take the vaccine, as an incentive, Kentucky has created a “shot at a million” lottery which started Friday that will allow you to register for a million-dollar prize, and students between 12 and 17 can register for lotteries for scholarships. Learn more at this web site: https://govstatus.egov.com/shot-at-a-million-youth-registration
If you don’t follow us on our Lee_County_Kentucky_Government Face Book page, please know that FEMA will be at the Happy Top Community Room. June 17,18,and 19 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help people with Personal Assistance projects. No appointment is necessary. I know some have received their money, but if you were turned down or want to challenge the amount given, these are the experts on all things FEMA and they will be here to help for three full days. When I ran for judge, my goal was and continues to be, to let the community know what is going on and try my best to make the best decisions based on information available to treat every person and group equally.
I also believe active participation by the community when positive and negative is the only way we are going to move our community forward. In short have a plan the majority of the community actively supports. I pledged to try to stay current on issues and trends to help prepare the community for the change that I see racing toward us as Internet now spreads across our county and our land prices rise as more people every month purchase property in our community. Many are buying just for investment, but others, because they want to move from more populated areas. The new road from London will be done soon opening up a major thoroughfare from the South. Manufacturing companies are showing an interest in our community or communities nearby, and more tourism-based industries are buying property in and around the county.
I would love nothing better that to say our community is ready for this rapid change, that we are all on the same path, that we understand we must actively address our problems and prepare for the changes that are already happening, that we make decisions based on data and the best information available. But I see a great deal of fear and emotion-based rebellion against the change that is inevitable. The issue I want to talk about today is the Hope Station. And what is really going on out there, not the fear fueled anger of people who haven’t gone out there to see things for themselves, or acknowledge that it is a program that is growing and improving as they become better at addressing community concerns and building partnerships to help some of our communities most in need.
I also want to talk about Beattyville Housing Board as a management organization that has done incredibly wonderful things, but has failed in some and in particular, failed to take positive and corrective action to make the Hope Station even better than it is, and failed to manage their rental assistance program to ensure those in that program are getting adequate guidance and case management to improve their lives. I cannot speak for the entire rental assistance program, but I have worked with Beattyville Housing on several properties and in most instances have been told by neighbors, they are drug dens, and in one case had a drug bust at a property I owned.
The politically smart thing for me to do would be to tell everyone, it’s in the hands of the Beattyville Housing Board and say nothing, but I’m not a very good politician. I have seen Fiscal Courts sit quietly by for over a decade and shrug their shoulders that there was nothing they could do to battle the growing crime problem. I’ve seen the Sheriff being overwhelmed and watched the jails filling up with people whose biggest crime was that they had worn out their welcome at home and had nowhere else to go. All these issues cost every tax payer money. That’s the real impact on us as individuals. Crime costs the tax payers. The Hope Station, though it’s not perfect, is the answer to our homeless and lost soul problem in our community. It is not perfect and the solution won’t happen overnight, but it is providing a resource that is used by the Three Forks Regional Jail, Beattyville Police, Sheriff’s Dept. and local agencies like Kentucky River Community Care to make their jobs easier.
When there is a homeless person that is lost, with some questionable mental issues, or just nowhere to go, the Hope Station is where they are sent or taken to. This creates fewer desperate people on the streets. And there are still many desperate people who don’t want help still on
the streets. The Board should have the integrity to stand by the decision they made four years ago and work to make the program they started, after reviewing all the options, work.
Some figures on what the Hope Station has done. Since it opened: 266 people have been checked in, 101, many with the assistance of Hope Station staff, have been permanently housed. KRCC has helped with case files on 89. 20 Have gone to rehab. And currently, 12 have had help getting jobs. Scores of those checked in have been given rides and bus tickets, and money to return to their homes, many after being released from Three Forks Regional Jail.
Until recently, and there being uncertainty on the future of Hope Station, KRCC provided five staff including counselors and case workers on site in a partnership to help their clients. I don’t criticize the Beattyville Housing Board lightly. Some have been near life time friends and people I have worked with on issues for years the many issues around the scourge of drug addiction in our community and region.
There are over thirty letters, many already provided to the board, with a large percentage of them from Lee County, supporting the program, but it seems the most vocal hand full of nay sayers are getting invited to the board meetings, while those who support it have to hear about votes after the fact.
Abandoning our struggling community members is not the answer, I ask the community to reach out to the Beattyville Housing Board and either develop policy and funding to guide Hope Station to succeed or move out of the way and let another non-profit that is currently paying the bills, take over and come up with policy.