KCEOC Wins 2020 CAK Innovation Award

KCEOC has won the 2020 Community Action Kentucky Innovation Award for Community Action Agencies! The Innovation Award, awarded from Community Action Kentucky, seeks to recognize innovative solutions within the Community Action Network. The award looks for agencies that utilize a creative solution to solve an identified problem, focuses on doing things differently, takes new ideas and implements it successfully with measurable outcomes, and seeks to collaborate within their agency with local nonprofits, business, or governmental organizations. By winning the Innovation Award KCEOC was also awarded $1,000.

For the award, KCEOC nominated Ryan’s Place, a crisis center serving homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24. The facility is named in memory of Ryan White, a young man who found himself homeless several times in his short lifetime. Ryan always trusted KCEOC in his times of need, and later became an advocate for other homeless youth. His extraordinary personality and outspoken views on his status in life was often conveyed in his music. In one of the song’s he wrote “I’m just a ghost in society, nobody stands behind me, but KCEOC stands beside me.” Ryan was dedicated to his community, and wanted other homeless youth to not only have a safe place to stay, but also to have to voice in their community.

When the time came to recruit a homeless youth to serve on the state youth action board, Ryan was the only person considered. Ryan served on the Youth Action board throughout the grant proposal process, as part of his role: he designed the logo that is displayed on the door to the facility and the Kentucky Housing Corporation’s Coordinated Community Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness. Sadly, Ryan passed away in a car accident just days after his 18th birthday, and just months before the youth shelter was opened. It became the mission of our staff, that when the crisis center was funded, his story would be presented to the Board of Directors with a request that the center be named in honor of both Ryan’s memory and his passion for all homeless youth. KCEOC named the shelter “Ryan's Place” and dedicated it to his memory and the shared mission of both him and KCEOC.

The agency had been serving homeless youths for many years; however, there had never been a source of funding that focused on the unique needs of this group, the fact remained that many homeless youth in the agency’s service areas were not fully being supported, KCEOC decided to take on this endeavor and seek targeted funding. The agency is grateful to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for making this a reality for the agency, the community, and those served.

Ryan’s Place is innovative because when planning for the program, KCEOC proposed that 25 youth would be served at the crisis center over the 2 year grant period. To date, 49 individuals with 4 children under the age of 3 have been served. When planning the rapid re-housing program, KCEOC proposed that 15 youth would be served with rapid re-housing funds over the 2 year grant period. To date, 29 individuals with 11 children under the age of 3 have been served. For both of these programs, some of these clients are still enrolled in case management services.

The approach of this project is also what makes it so innovative, combining both a tenant-based approach (Ryan’s Place crisis center) with a transitional approach (rapid re-housing). This is one of only two projects in the Promise Zone (the project covers 5 counties), and the only project of its kind operated by a community action agency in the whole state.

The goal of Ryan's Place is for all the residents to be able to become self-sufficient; it offers an on-site case manager, employment services, life skills, and basic “adulting” lessons. Ryan’s Place follows KCEOC’s principles of offering clients a hand up not a hand out. KCEOC also uses a Front Porch Assessment to help guide youth with their transition from the crisis center to self-sufficiency. It helps them determine if they may want to live on their own, reunite with family, or connect with other youth for shared housing.

KCEOC has already made an impact in the community, and will continue to provide critical services to those in need. We would like to thank Community Action Kentucky for recognizing our successes with the program, and choosing us for the 2020 Innovation Award. KCEOC will continue to develop innovative programming, and continue to provide resources to our service area.