Mar 072012

We were not surprised to see Mick open the door of the house to which a neighbor directed us after hearing our strange request. She said that she would not sit on the discarded couch but that the people who lived a few houses down from her would most likely be game.

Earlier that day, Mick had spent time thinking about how he could get rid of a couch he and his wife owned.  Because they didn’t want to move the heavy, hide-a-bed on their own and because they like to support the Catholic Action Center, they decided to give it to them. In any case, Mick steeped outside in 22 degree weather even before we told him why we needed him to come with us to the curb.

Image and text by Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde, Discarded project.

Continue reading »

Sep 142011

City avoids responsibility, leadership

By Jeff Gross

What, if anything, the LFUCG will do about the Catholic Action Center remains to be seen, and it will say a lot about our community’s values. Following the Herald-Leader story on the LFUCG councilmembers’ response to concerns raised by the Center’s neighbors, councilmembers have said little publicly on the issue, awaiting community feedback at an upcoming public safety committee meeting.

On the other hand, the Catholic Action Center has attempted to improve their neighborhood presence and services. They are expanding meal delivery services for their elderly neighbors. They are visiting neighbors to find people who would benefit from this service. They have also reiterated that the public is welcome to their Tuesday free medical clinics. As a friend remarked upon seeing this news on a Quaker listserv, “Evidently, the way the Catholic Action Center handles criticism is to reach out and help the community even more!” Continue reading »

Aug 242011

By Jeff Gross

Last week, news emerged that four members of the Urban County Council (Vice Mayor Linda Gordon, At-Large member Steve Kay, First District’s Chris Ford, and Fifth District’s Bill Farmer, Jr.) met privately with Bishop Gainer to ask him to address concerns about the Catholic Action Center. The Center is independently run, but the property is owned by the Diocese of Lexington. Beverly Fortune’s “Neighbors’ complaints about Catholic Action Center get Attention at Lexington’s City Hall” in the Herald-Leader outlined the common complaints against the Center and potential actions being weighed by the councilmembers. The Catholic Action Center’s response, available on their Facebook group page, convincingly articulates their record for service and their commitment to working with the neighborhood. You can also search North of Center’s archives for my previous writing on this topic.

In response to complaints about loitering, noise, public intoxication, and litter, Kay suggests that one potential solution would be to expand the city’s nuisance ordinance to cover commercial property: “The current ordinance says if you have more than two police citations in a certain period of time, the building can be closed for one year.” In a moment of forced austerity, especially for already impoverished and struggling Americans, and in light of Lexington’s budgetary cuts to social services and public safety, the legal loophole nuisance ordinance “solution” poses an especially dangerous and impractical threat to private agencies that provide a safety net for vulnerable citizens. If government agencies cannot care for citizens (especially those who suffer from addiction or mental illness), then they must find ways to work with the agencies that can and will do that work. Continue reading »

Sep 152010

Review: Please Don’t Call Me Homeless: I Don’t Call You Homed

By Mary Alice Pratt

The Downtown Arts Center was sold out for both the August 20 and 21 performances of Please Don’t Call Me Homeless: I Don’t Call You Homed. On both evenings an enthusiastic audience, eager for personal interactions, thronged the actors as they emerged after the play. The actors were individuals who had experienced homelessness often due to addictive diseases and who were now enjoying new lives of sobriety, hope, and dignity. They were also clients of the Catholic Action Center (CAC), which has worked with persons on the margin for 10 years.

Eric Seale, Artistic Director of Actors Guild of Lexington, deserves much credit for having guided the actors as they portrayed their own lives. Jeff Gross deserves no less credit for producing the script of the performers’ own words about their experiences. Gross became involved with persons at the CAC while working there as a volunteer. A UK graduate student in English, he spent several months listening to individual stories before incorporating them into a script.

Actors in the play were all participants in the CAC’s “Circle of Care.” As the play program describes it, the Circle of Care includes “weekly meetings of community mentors and participants to give care, connection and accountability needed by those walking the journey from the streets to a home.” Continue reading »

Jul 282010

Catholic Action Center in north-side neighborhoods

By Jeff Gross

Part One

Nearly as soon as I moved to the north side in February 2009, I heard people call the Catholic Action Center a neighborhood pariah. At a Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association meeting, Movable Feast outlined their renovation plans for the former Nanna’s Soul Food. Local residents were concerned that Movable Feast would be another Catholic Action Center. They wanted reassurance that Movable Feasts’ clients would not come to the organization’s location at the corner of Fifth and Silver Maple and that it wouldn’t end up like the Catholic hospitality house three blocks down at Fifth and Chestnut. This isn’t to say that neighbors’ concerns are unfounded: a quick search of the Lexington Division of Police’s Crime Map shows a significant number of calls to the Fifth and Chestnut intersection, though most other intersections in the Williams Wells Brown, MLK, and North Limestone neighborhoods also show high numbers of police calls.

Between February 2009 and January 2010, I put little thought into the Catholic Action Center’s presence in our neighborhood. Perhaps because I lived five blocks away, I never paid much attention to the Center. I had no reason, good or bad, to notice it. Homeless persons walked down my street throughout the day, though I had no way of knowing if they were going to the Catholic Action Center or somewhere else in the area. Since then, I’ve learned that many of the people passing through the north side are heading to Baker Iron and Metal off Seventh Street to exchange cans for cash. Others in our area are making their way back to the Hope Center or some of the camps off North Broadway. Continue reading »