The 'new' homeless on Lexington streets

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Thousands of Kentuckians are looking for work, and some of them end up on the streets.

They are the "new" homeless: college educated, career driven, and with children to support.

Many of us have a stereotype or a picture of the homeless.

"I would think that was somebody walking up and down the street, looking like a bum, begging. Now I see that saying, you are just one paycheck away from being so true," Celina Byrd, who recently lost her job, said.

Celina Byrd does not fit the image we have of the homeless. She went to college, spent 15 years working in nursing homes, and helped support five children. But when Celina lost her job, she couldn't pay the rent, and ended up with no home.

"I cried a lot. But you just have to get thru it. It's nothing I could do. I never thought we'd be in this predicament," Byrd said.

Her teenage children took it hard.

"I felt like my whole life was coming to an end. I felt like worthless, I felt like a bum. I mean, I know I don't look like one, but you know that's how I felt. I felt like there was no hope for me," Byrd said.

They had to leave a three bedroom duplex. One older child is on their own, another lives with her estranged husband, so Byrd had to find a place for her and three teenagers.

The Byrd family landed in one of the 16 rooms at the Salvation Army set aside for families. Four beds and two dressers in a room about the size of one of their previous bedrooms.

The tight living arrangement has brought about something Byrd and daughter Akiami Byrd didn't expect.

"Since we're in that one room, and it's always, me and her together all the time. We're like sisters, just stuck on glue on each other, we're always together. I love it though....I love being with her," Akiami Byrd said.

They can live at the Salvation Army as long as Celina actively tries to find work. Her 18-year-old daughter already has two jobs lined up, and has a new appreciation for what that means.

"If you get a job, you need to be thankful you got a job. Don't quit it, don't be late, don't not go to work because a job and money is gonna keep you with a roof over our head," Akiami Byrd said.

"Anybody can be homeless, especially being there, and seeing everybody that's homeless, wow, it's so many families, so many people just come through there wow," Celina Byrd said.

The Salvation Army in Lexington says they do not turn away homeless families.

There is a waiting list for the 16 rooms, but families that show up, stay in the lobby until something opens up there, or with family and friends.