The Frankfort City Commission moved to provide $30,000 to the CARES Coalition to go toward the needed costs for a consultant as the organization rebrands itself as a 501(c)(3).

Blair Hecker, CARES’ community engagement project manager, came before the commission after making a presentation to the Franklin County Fiscal Court on Dec. 17 to ask for half of the amount needed for a consultant. 

Hecker explained CARES is an umbrella nonprofit that is working to connect and fund agencies that prevent and reduce homelessness, like ACCESS Soup Kitchen and Men’s Shelter. She requested the court provide $15,000 to go toward a total of the $30,000 needed for a consultant, and told the fiscal court the City of Frankfort received the same request.

In her presentation, Hecker said homelessness has increased during the pandemic and used graphs to show data received from a community-based survey done through the city’s public engagement platform, Frankly Speaking.

Blair Hecker

Blair Hecker, community engagement project manager, makes a presentation regarding the CARES Coalition to the city commission in December. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The data showed an increase in homelessness, hunger and substance abuse throughout Frankfort. It also showed the community wants to work together and focus on homelessness prevention.

Although the court decided to resume the discussion on Jan. 7, Hecker came before the city commission to ask for the full $30,000 in hopes the fiscal court would help in the future. 

City Manager Laura Hagg said Hecker and emergency management has been working on the CARES Coalition project for some time. 

“I truly believe this is the right way to go to hire a consultant through the normal city hiring process. We’ll have an interview panel. We will advertise and find the best person to be able to really put the CARES Coalition on a solid foundation and start focusing on long-term solutions to housing here in our community,” Hagg said. 

Commissioner Kyle Thompson also voiced his support for the coalition and spoke about the fiscal court meeting Hecker had presented at. 

“Blair gave a great presentation, she always does, with regard to the need for the CARES Coalition. There were several questions. There are still several questions regarding this from some magistrates, and they wanted to kind of sit on this, not totally sure why,” he said. 

Thompson explained the CARES consultant will be the driving force behind everything else the coalition and the city aims to do. 

“Since then, I have been told that there are a number of agencies, many of whom we essentially started this project for, that said they will not participate and they will not do anything the city says, which is very interesting considering they just came to us and asked us for emergency funds, but I think that the idea of having an organization to be able to manage the funds wisely throughout the year is an excellent opportunity for these organizations,” he said. 

Thompson recommended the commission move forward with supplying the full $30,000 with the hopes the county would help in the future “because it’s a city and a county problem.”

“If we don’t have someone that’s able to get the 501(c)(3) process started, that can set up a coalition of members and create bylaws and funding sources, while also being able to find other funding sources right out the gate, then we’re back in the same place we were just a few weeks ago,” he said. “As Commissioner (Katrisha) Waldridge has said many times, we are not in the business of running homeless shelters, but we are in the business of helping our citizens. This is the way to do that.”

Mayor Layne Wilkerson clarified the motion on the table was to fund the full $30,000 and that the county would hopefully reimburse the city later if the fiscal court moves to also help. 

Hecker said based on the presentation given last week, the next step for the coalition is to get the consultant. 

“The fiscal court requested more time, did not make a decision on that resolution for $15,000. After speaking with the city manager and just evaluating where we are in the process with the CARES Coalition and how important it is that we are really able to start moving in January,” she said. “If the fiscal court does decide they want to partner in that, that’s fine, it was going to be on a reimbursement basis to the city anyway under that original agreement.”

Hecker said it is the coalition’s goal to establish the consultant position as soon as possible to get the ball rolling. She added a request for qualification (RFQ) will be sent out as part of the search process to find someone that has experience with nonprofits of similar structure to fill the consultant role. 

Following discussion, the commission unanimously agreed to fund the full $30,000.

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