February 11, 2016

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Giving shelter for a decade

Published 9:01 pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

If anyone doubts how big an impact concerned citizens can have on a community, just ask one of the many homeless women who has stayed at the Franklin County Womens Shelter.

As an article on the front page of todays edition explains, the shelter was the idea of Jill Robinson, though she is the first to admit her dream could not have been realized without other caring individuals.

Nonetheless, all good ideas are hatched somewhere, and this one originated about 10 years ago with Robinson, a former teacher, state employee and small business owner who has been a Franklin County Fiscal Court magistrate since 1994.

A decade ago, Frankfort was already being served by another facility that has been a vitally important community resource, the Simon House.

But, while the Simon House takes in women that are pregnant, have children, or have been victims of domestic violence, Robinson saw the need for a facility for homeless women.

It is unfortunate such a place is needed at all, but the community is fortunate Robinson and the others who joined her in her quest were successful. The house on East Third Street has been a haven for women, who have nowhere else to turn.

Though accurate numbers are, of course, difficult to obtain, statistics estimate the number of people in the U.S. who are homeless for any period of time in a given year at 3.5 million.

Not surprisingly, studies show more homeless men than women. Those studies also show that the number of homeless families with children is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2007 found that families with children accounted for 23 percent of the homeless population. Of the single homeless population identified in the survey, 67.5 percent was male and 32.5 percent female.

Last year, the Frankfort Womens Shelter provided a place to stay for 59 women and children who were at the facility an average of 72 days. In addition, 60 women and children stayed in emergency shelter beds at the house and another 128 were provided the means to stay in a hotel or apartment.

Thus, 247 women and children in need, many with no other option, were taken in by the Frankfort Womens Shelter in 2012.

Though Robinson and the other dedicated board members have guided the Womens Shelter, it has literally taken a small army of volunteers to staff the facility.

One of the original board members, Betty Cowherd, said more than 260 volunteers worked 18,708 hours at the shelter last year alone.

Because of the boards term limit structure, the last of the original board members will rotate off in January 2014. But when that happens, we feel confident they will stay involved. We also feel confident the other board members have the same strong conviction for the facility as those original members.

Our fervent wish is the facility will close one day because it is no longer needed. In the meantime, we thank Robinson for helping establish a place where homeless women can find shelter.