Local man stays in shack to raise awareness for homelessness

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The director of the Jessamine County Homeless Coalition (JCHC), Johnny Templin, was back in his uninsulated shack on Main Street this year.

For the past three years, Templin has taken the week after Thanksgiving to spend a whole week in a shack on the lawn of the Jessamine County Public Library. He stays in the shack morning and night, not leaving for anything other than emergencies, regardless of the weather.

Upon walking up to his shack for the interview, Templin was surrounded by three people conversing with him. Conversation and connection are a large part of why he stays in the shack. Still, most importantly, the shack is meant to “raise awareness to homelessness in all ways people experience it. Whether it’s someone in our shelter or someone out in the elements.”

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Templin said affordable housing and substandard housing have also become issues in the community. He said he’s spoken to real estate agents who call him to vent about other agents taking advantage of rising interest rates.

He mentioned an interesting point regarding affordable housing. Of the almost 20 million dollar total of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding given to Jessamine County, Nicholasville, and Wilmore in separate amounts, not one cent has been allocated to affordable housing.

For reference, Lexington allocated around 13 million dollars in ARPA funds to affordable housing alone. This excludes the hundreds of thousands of dollars put towards recovery programs and homelessness initiatives.

One of the ways that Templin spends his week is by conducting interviews with community members, including church leaders who are putting groups together to volunteer their time working on framing and drywall and other tasks in the unopened Center for Growth and Hope.

One of this year’s interviews was with the JCHC Director of Operations April McCubbins.

Templin calls McCubbins the poster child of this year’s shack week. If there were any story to help bring light and awareness to the issue of homelessness in Jessamine County, Templin said it would be McCubbins’.

McCubbins has been the director of operations for about a year and a half. Templin calls her a graduate of the JCHC program.

“Not only is she compassionate, but she has lived experience,” Templin said.

For around three years, McCubbins lived on the streets of Lexington and was battling with alcoholism. One day, she decided to move down to Jessamine County for the Homeless Coalition and its Maple Street shelter. She hasn’t left since.

Once she finished the Maple Street program, Templin said she had not returned for a long time.

“A lot of people want to put that chapter behind them. They don’t want to talk about it. It’s hard on me, especially if I’m close to people,” Templin said. “But she wanted her privacy, so I left her alone.”

Fast forward a few years to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. McCubbins worked at Captain D’s as a night manager about 60-80 hours weekly. Templin said she was “working her tail off.” One day, he saw a Facebook post about a rumor that Captain D’s in Nicholasville was closing.

Templin knew that meant McCubbins would be out of a job, so he contacted her as soon as possible. It turned out that the fast food restaurant had only closed for the night, but McCubbins quit a week earlier because she was working too many hours.

He said, “April, that’s all I need to know.”

Immediately after the phone conversation, the two planned to meet for coffee the next day. Templin offered McCubbins a position as an admissions person for about 20 hours a week- a relief after working around 20 hours overtime every week.

Soon after that, McCubbins had the opportunity to become operations director, and she took it.

“I always saw that compassion and care in her, even when she was helping us while at the shelter. She was a little introverted and didn’t see herself in a leadership role; god had to open that up slowly, but out of our five directors of operations since we opened, April was the one that God wanted in place as we grew into a legitimate situation. She’s helped out a lot of people. It’s a beautiful story,” Templin said.

Even though the purpose of staying in the shack is to hold community conversations and raise awareness for homelessness, any money donated to the JCHC will go towards finishing the upcoming Center for Growth and Hope. Those interested can donate on the website at www.jchcky.com/support-us.