The World Equestrian Games start this weekend, and just in time for the games, homeless people in Lexington will have a new option for a place to stay. A new shelter opens tomorrow night.
Phoenix Park is often the site of free meals for the homeless and others in need, but during the World Equestrian Games it will be home to a video board with a live feed from the horse park. Other activities downtown will create a lot of new foot traffic, and that's led to questions of how to share the space.
Homelessness is a problem every day, but as Lexington prepares for a flurry of activity downtown during the World Equestrian Games, new efforts are underway to provide temporary shelter for those living on the streets, but for some like Corina Platt, who recently became homeless, those efforts have been met with skepticism. "Now that they have this big thing going on, and they're trying to redecorate the town and everything, they don't want other people from out of town to see that they have a problem with a lot of homeless people here, and they're trying to hide it," Platt said, "but they're only worried about it now. Afterwards it's probably going to go right back to the same thing."
Ginny Ramsey with the Catholic Action Center understands the mistrust, but she's hoping this new shelter that will be available during the games will attract even those who may be reluctant to seek help. "We hope that by the end of the 18 nights, we will have established relationships and be able to walk forward with them in ways to help them get permanent housing," Ramsey said.
Ramsey has an important ally in reaching out to those in need. Walter Payne used to be homeless himself. Now he's working to help others on the streets. "It feels real good," Payne said, "I mean I'm always willing to help because I've been to the bottom, and I'm there no longer, so I would like to bring the next man and the next man and the next man because that's what it's all about."
Payne says many of those in need can be hard to reach. "It's a general mistrust, and hopefully with this positive thing that we're doing, it will change their attitude because usually the unknown is scary, but once you find out that it ain't what you think it is, you're willing to change your attitude, and that's all we ask."
The group donating the temporary space downtown will need the building back after the games are over, but volunteers at the shelter say during the eighteen days it's open they'll be working to find long-term options for their guests.
The shelter will open Wednesday night at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Corral Street. Guests can stay overnight from 7:30pm until 8:00am.