LEXINGTON—Hundreds of working-class Kentuckians, students, corporate go-getters, and senior citizens stood together in solidarity last week and camped out in tents, lean-tos, and awnings near the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum to send a message to Lexington lawmakers: homelessness and cyclical poverty is not acceptable.
Richard Wilkenson, affectionately known as “HomelessHelper Rick,” heads up a formal protest against homelessness and poverty in Kentucky.
“Each night, over a thousand people are forced to spend the night on the street because they have no home and no reasonable access to affordable housing,” said Richard Wilkenson, who earned the nickname “HomelessHelper Rick” after using his vacation time to spearhead the event for the eight straight year. “It’s sad that it has to come to this, but we have to make ourselves known to the community if we are going to see change happen.
Hundreds of people sleep in tents in front of the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum.
According to the Kentucky Housing Corp., there are 5,981 homeless people within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This number is believed to exclude an additional 3,000 plus people who are considered “marginally housed” and cannot afford their current living accommodations.
“It feels so good to get out here and make a difference,” said Drew Wooden, a first-year student at the University of Kentucky. “Rain or shine, I felt compelled to come to Memorial and participate in this event. Everyone deserves a home.”
University of Kentucky student Drew Wooden braves the elements and passes time during the protest with a little outdoor Madden. “Honestly, I don’t know how homeless people keep from getting bored,” said Wooden. “I mean, I’m not really homeless, but I am bored, which is why I brought my PS3 out here.”
According to the Lexington Police, emotions have run high during the six-day protest, but no arrests have been made. One young man, apparently unaccustomed to homeless living, was given a citation for public defecation, local authorities stated. “He should have just used the port-a-john,” the officer said.
During the evenings, emotions reached a fevor pitch. “I simply will not stand for our county to let people fall by the wayside,” the mob shouted.
Inspired by the impressive display, Lexington mayor Jim Newberry promised reform on public housing initiatives.
“Clearly, these people are making sacrifices and care about the plight of their community,” Newberry said.
The protest for the homeless is the second major event for social justice in Lexington this year.
Photos courtesy of reporters from Kentucky Sports Radio.