Boone County, Welcome House renew winter sheltering plan agreement

Douglas Clark
Douglas Clark
Douglas Clark is LINK nky's Boone County reporter

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Boone County and Covington-based nonprofit Welcome House of Northern Kentucky have renewed an agreement to provide cold weather sheltering for the winter season. 

“We’ve operated for three winters,” Boone County Human Services Director Laura Pleiman said. “We’re really looking at those who are unsheltered in Boone County and at risk of effects from severe weather.”

Unsheltered is defined as an individual without access to any housing at the time a winter weather event occurs.

The initiative stems from the Boone County Homelessness Task Force which formed four years ago at the request of Boone County Judge/Executive Gary W. Moore and then Florence Mayor Diane Whalen, Pleiman said. 

The panel examined the number of people experiencing homelessness within the county, what resources were available to them, and a response to winter weather for those experiencing homelessness.

Welcome House contracts with a hotel and community partners to operate the program. 

Boone County has an internal team that meets weekly to assess the weather and consider factors that include temperature, precipitation, wind and the duration of such.

A recommendation is made to Moore on whether to implement an emergency declaration and activate the shelter, officials said.

When there is an activation, the Welcome House street outreach team identifies individuals they have worked with throughout the year to inform them shelter will be available to them 

“The hotel is staffed by Welcome House program staff 24/7, so there is an individual onsite while the activation is in place,” Pleiman said. “If a recommendation to deactivate is made, we let Welcome House know and they take those folks who had been staying in the hotel back to the places they had been staying.” 

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The amount Boone County spent on last year’s winter sheltering effort was about $167,000, Pleiman said, indicating staffing costs are fixed, with the variables being meals and hotel rooms. 

“Our first three winters our activations have been between about 60 and 76 nights,” Pleiman said. “We have a variety of ages, but generally the age for an individual was about 45. We definitely have children and older adults.”

The initiative is funded via the Boone County Mental Health/Intellectual Disability/Aging tax.

“Sometimes if we have an opportunity to interact with an individual or family, getting them in touch with other social services, they can possibly help them become employed and more self-sufficient,” Moore said. 

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