'A community coming together': New emergency shelter will be more than a place to get warm

A new home for the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky could open as soon as late November, the culmination of a 14-year effort to replace cramped quarters on Scott Street.

Known originally as a cold shelter for homeless people during winter, the shelter has evolved to a year-round haven for men and women who need a bed as well as showers, laundry, help obtaining social services, and an address to receive mail.

The new location, 436 W. 13th St. in Covington, is a rebuild of the former Steffen’s Tool Crib, plus a portion built from the ground up. Its capacity of 68 beds not only exceeds Scott Street by more than double, but offers sufficient space for showers, kitchens, a daytime engagement space, and a medical area staffed by St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

“The building itself, everything in the building, the renovations, the construction, the furnishings, all in it’s about $2.7 million,” says Kim Webb, shelter executive director.

Innovations will include three computer workstations and cellphone storage lockers so “people can come in and charge their phones while they take a shower, while they do their laundry,” she says.

As painting gets underway this week, it’s obvious a bright, airy atmosphere will be a big change from the windowless Scott Street site.

Webb says her six years in leadership have been devoted to moving the shelter.

“To see it finally come to fruition, and with the hopes that we’re in before it really gets cold this winter, is just incredible,” she says. When temperatures dipped to the 50s last week, calls came from vulnerable people who wanted cover from the rain.

About $1.7 million is still needed to finish construction. The Help Us Home capital campaign, led by David Drees of Drees Homes, aims to raise $5 million over five years. The shelter is doubling its staff in line with its physical growth, replenishing cash reserves, and creating an endowment of $2 million. Webb credits the Catalytic Fund for its fundraising involvement.

“This is not just about providing winter shelter,” Webb says. “The emergency is all year round. And it’s important that we’re prepared, and we can do this in our community. This is a community coming together. This is a community project. At least that’s how I look at it.”

Kenton County and St. Elizabeth Healthcare played major roles in making the new shelter possible, Webb says. “We will forever be grateful for that.”
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Nancy Daly is a veteran Kentucky and Cincinnati journalist. An "Army brat" who found a home in Kentucky, she is a University of Kentucky graduate. Her hobbies include photography, rewatching "Better Call Saul" and "Succession," and playing the "Alphabet Game" on Zoom with six siblings across the globe.