Downtown Nicholasville emergency shelter in danger of closing

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Correction: The Board of Education released a statement soon after the Journal has reached out, and we failed to include it in the printed edition. Near the end of the article, the statement has now been added.

Jessamine County’s only emergency homeless shelter is at risk of closing without recurring community support. 

The Jessamine County Homeless Coalition (JCHC) has provided shelter, food, hot showers, and job assistance for eight years. The JCHC also provides Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners free of charge to the community and has historically run the fall festival.

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The JCHC is completely funded by community donations, volunteer work, and one annual grant of under $7,000. 

Rewind to a few years ago. Johnny Templin, director of the JCHC, and the board decided to start new programming within the JCHC, such as the Center for Growth and Hope. This center would provide services for individuals dealing with domestic violence, mental health, substance use disorder, and veterans.

The second project would be to build transitional townhomes for the empty lot off Broadway that the JCHC had purchased from Jessamine County Schools Board of Education, which had owned and utilized the property since around the 1950s. However, it hasn’t used the property since the mid-2000s. 

Soon, Templin and the JCHC realized the property wouldn’t be the right fit for the townhomes, but they knew profit would soon be coming into their pockets once the 506 S Broadway property was sold. 

This profit—around $275,000—would be the funding source for constructing the Center for Growth and Hope and the shelter. Unfortunately, after a potential buyer did soil testing on the property, it was found to be full of toxic chemicals like arsenic and lead, which put a wrench in JCHC’s plans. 

The JCHC is still paying for the loan used to purchase the Broadway property, insurance, and maintenance of the land while still operating its emergency shelter and trying to open its growth and hope center.

At the end of March, the JCHC filed a lawsuit against the city of Nicholasville and Jessamine County Schools. 

The lawsuit alleges that the property, owned by the city of Nicholasville before the Jessamine County Board of Education owned it, was used as a dumping ground for solid waste. The lawsuit also alleges that the Board of Education knew about the toxic chemicals in the land and did not inform the JCHC before the nonprofit purchased the land– which it is legally obligated to do. 

Templin said the EPA has a program that reimburses governments for toxic chemical cleanup. As a nonprofit in dire financial straits, Templin said the JCHC cannot afford to wait for reimbursement. 

The Journal contacted the city of Nicholasville and the Jessamine County Board of Education for comment. 

Mayor Alex Carter responded to our request:  “The City of Nicholasville has previously communicated with the owner’s representatives and have offered to assist the plaintiff in applying for grants from the state government that may be available to address their concerns. As always, it is our intention to make every effort to do what is best for the residents of Nicholasville. This lawsuit references a parcel of land the city has not owned since the early 1950s. We do not believe the litigation is well founded in facts of the law with respect to the claims against the city.” 

The Jessamine County Board of Education responded through a statement by Superintendent Matt Moore regarding the former Jessamine County Board of Education property at 506 Broadway, Nicholasville KY

“Unfortunately, due to the current litigation concerning the sale of the former Board of Education property at 506 Broadway, we are limited regarding the information that can be shared at this time. We believe that inaccurate information has been communicated by the Jessamine County Homeless Coalition and subsequently included in media reporting. When the Coalition bought the property, we were excited by its plans to expand services for the homeless. Caring for our homeless population is a shared community responsibility, and we value this crucial work. Our district contributes to this cause by providing resources to unhoused students and their families through the district’s Homeless Education program. We believe the claims against the district are unfounded and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter.” Moore said.

Thankfully, Christ Embassy, a non-denominational church, has a history of helping out the Jessamine County Homeless Coalition and is doing so yet again.

Christ Embassy has taken on the construction, operation, and debt of the Center for Growth and Hope. Though the church will influence it, it will create a separate non-profit to run it. 

This means Templin has stepped down as the center’s director. But this has been a weight lifted off the nonprofit’s shoulders. The church is also covering Templin’s salary and the salary of April McCubbins, the shelter’s director of operations. 

However, the shelter is still in need and at risk of closing if it does not receive more help from the community. 

“JCHC’s need for the shelter by itself and the property on Broadway is a little over 5,000 a month right now,” Templin said. 

That’s not the only concern for the JCHC, either. Other than worrying about getting rid of the property on Broadway and keeping the shelter open, the shelter’s ten-year lease is ending in 2026. This means the shelter’s rent could skyrocket, or they’ll have to find a new place to go—which could even be outside of downtown and in an industrial district, making the location far less walkable and accessible to people in need. 

To help the Jessamine County Homeless Coalition, interested individuals can go to its website to donate.