Homelessness exists even though we don’t see it, according to Kimberly Mason, director of the Gentry House.
“You may not see them out on the street, but you can’t just look into everybody’s homes and see who is living with them,” Mason said. “It’s hard to see, but it’s there. Homelessness is an issue in Murray and I think it’s probably going to continue because Murray has really limited resources.”
In order to combat homelessness and provide resources to those that are homeless in Murray, the Gentry House offers housing and other necessities to help families get back on their feet.
The Gentry House offers a place for families to live until they find alternative housing, as well as educational programs. Gentry House staff also assists adults in finding jobs so they can provide for their families.
“We have just started two new educational programs,” Mason said. “One is a financial class that can teach families how to budget and how to save. The other class is teaching women how to make their own soap and cleaning supplies – that way they can save some money.”
Last year, the Gentry House served 19 families, an increase from 15 families in 2013. Although they have successfully provided necessities for those families and assisted them in many ways, there is one problem that the Gentry House is constantly facing: size. The facility only contains four rooms for families to live in, meaning that Mason and her staff find themselves having to turn down many families in need or put them on a lengthy waiting list.
“Whenever people call me I have to tell them, ‘I’m sorry. All of our units are full because we have four, and we have 10 families on the waiting list,’” Mason said. “You can come fill out an application but you have to wait a year before you can come here.’”
The Gentry House is the only family shelter in western Kentucky. There is a women’s shelter in Mayfield, Ky., but that’s for women and children only. The next closest shelter is a men’s shelter called Damascus Road Inc. in Paris, Tenn.
“There’s no other family shelters,” Mason said. “If I get a husband and wife, they’re going to have to split up. They would rather live in their car together than have to separate and go to different shelters.”
Mason said homelessness in Murray is always growing, and the Gentry House board is making plans to build another facility to accommodate for that growth. The Gentry House staff tries to plan several fundraisers and community events throughout the year in order to raise money and raise awareness about homelessness.
“We take volunteers of all kinds of majors at Murray State,” Mason said. “There’s a lot of things to do in the office, organizing donations in the storage room, weekly inspections, talking with families, helping them get jobs.”
Anyone is welcome to come in and volunteer at the Gentry House. Mason said there are always jobs available for willing volunteers to contribute their time.
Story by Madison Wepfer, Assistant Features Editor