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Homelessness a very real problem locally

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By James Roberts

Homeless. It's a spot she never thought she'd find herself. The rent was due, the bills were piling up and Debbie Martin simply didn't have enough money to keep up. Soon after, she was evicted.

Earlier this year, Martin's husband left, leaving a tremendous amount of bills for her to pay alone.

"I had to sell everything I had in the house to make the next month's rent," Martin said.

But when the following month's rent came due, Martin realized she wasn't going to be able to keep up.

"I was devastated. I didn't know what I was going to do."

That's when Green River Ministries stepped in.

"I was trying to find a place to go and I called Campbellsville Housing."

While the Housing Authority didn't have an apartment available at that time, staff there did refer Martin to the Taylor County Crisis Relief Center staff, who, in turn, told her about Green River Ministries.

In April, Martin spent about 10 days at Green River Ministries shelter until the Housing Authority found an apartment for her.

"She was working, [but] it just wasn't enough to keep her in a place. The bills had stacked up," said Misty Curry, executive director of Green River Ministries.

Martin works for Campbellsville Independent Schools as a bus monitor and in food service at Newton Education Center.

"If you're homeless, people say, 'Get a job.' I have a job."

Stories like Martin's, Curry said, drive home the fact that homelessness isn't a problem confined only to larger cities.

"There is an awareness problem. People are not aware of homelessness here. They don't realize that this exists in rural areas, too."

Since its opening in August 2006, Green River Ministries has received 77 requests for help. Since the emergency shelter opened in February as part of Green River Ministries' Jubilee Center, 17 people have received temporary housing. The other requests for shelter were met by the Salvation Army, Crisis Relief or were declined because those asking were determined not to be homeless because they had a place to stay, Curry said.

The two-bedroom shelter will only house one family or individual at a time due to security reasons.

To stay at the shelter, one must be a Taylor County resident, pass a warrant check conducted by E-911 and meet the federal definition of homeless, which is a person who does not have a regular nighttime residence.

If someone needs to stay longer than two weeks, they must undergo a thorough criminal background check.

The maximum stay is 30 days.

Those who are eligible may come to the shelter, located behind Wendy's at 100 Stockyard St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or call 465-0835. After hours, Curry recommends calling the E-911 center at 465-8000.

Martin has high praise for Green River Ministries.

"I just love them to death. It's a tremendous place with great people."

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com.