Finding a Purpose: Serving Unhoused Communities

This article was originally published in the Summer 2024 issue of Living Recovery. To view the full issue, click here.

Across Kentucky, thousands of people struggle to find safe housing. Ten percent of these individuals have been homeless for more than one year, according to a 2023 report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Houselessness is most common in larger cities, but it also exists in rural areas — often out of sight.

 It’s a complex issue with multiple root causes. While many may conclude that substance abuse is the main reason for houselessness, the lack of affordable housing and economic challenges such as low-paying jobs and high unemployment are also significant contributing factors.

 “It’s hard to grasp the impact houselessness has on your health,” said Jason Merrick, VP of Program Development at Addiction Recovery Care. “You’re likely in a place you’re not supposed to be, and that causes an enormous amount of anxiety that produces sleep deprivation and malnutrition.”

Knowing that treating substance abuse represents only a portion of this complex issue, Addiction Recovery Care opened two Altogether Opportunity Centers — in Boyd and Johnson counties.

 “The Opportunity Centers are the first step in someone’s healing journey,” noted Merrick. “It’s a safe space people can come if they are wandering the streets and don’t know where to go. People need their basic physiological needs met to get back on their feet.”

The centers serve as emergency shelters for people in crisis who need immediate assistance. They have the opportunity to stay at the shelter, address the challenges that brought them, and receive help transitioning to employment and sustainable housing.

“I think the solution is to provide opportunities for purpose in life and to contribute something valuable to your community and to society,” Merrick said.