Somerset City Council heard from a guest on Monday evening about a new scheme it is trying to roll out across the state that would help connect those in need to the resources that would help them the most.
Russell Springs native Aaron Poynter updated council members on the website/app which is already live in three counties – Russell, Hart and Barren.
KARES (Kentucky Area Resources) would be a kind of one-stop shop for resources that could be sought in each county, he said. There is a need for this type of service, he said, because although there are many groups that can help, often the people who need them don’t know about them and don’t know where to look for them.
Similarly, many of these groups and services do not know each other, he said.
Poynter said he once explained why this website was needed to a group of state officials, and they asked what made it different from Google.
Poynter said he demonstrated the difference by going to Google and searching for a service, such as behavioral health or addiction services, and it returned a result 70 miles away.
“For a person who doesn’t have proper transportation, 70 miles might as well be 700,” he said. “I knew what I needed was across the parking lot from my office, but that’s not what was brewing. We just have to do better.
The website, www.kares.us, has three different functions. The “Explore” option is what he called a “better Google search” that shows resources in each county.
People can also directly request information in the “Request” section. If they know what type of service they are looking for, KARES staff can direct them, but often the person does not know what services they might need.
In those cases, staff can talk with them, determine their needs and point them in the right direction, he said.
The third option is to “sign up,” which he said was intended for other members of the community such as law enforcement, recovery houses, county prosecutors, etc., so that they can also have access to the list of services to help those they encounter on a daily basis.
Services found under KARES would include job training, health care, government assistance, housing, child care, dietary needs, clothing organizations, and addiction centers, among others.
Mayor Alan Keck said there are funds available at the state and federal levels to build the website, but local leaders – whether city, county government or entities like SPEDA – should finance the annual maintenance of the site. It could cost between $8,000 and $12,000, he said.
“If you think about the payback, if we just help a few people get out of addiction, get off the streets, or get a job, the payback is weeks or months, not years,” said said Keck.
As he asked council members to keep the program in mind, one audience member raised a point about internet access among the homeless.
Bridgette Fitzgerald of Welcome House said her organization often takes to the streets to raise awareness and help people identify. She said her main concern was that people living on the street usually don’t have a phone or access to Wi-Fi to be able to access a website like KARES.
She asked Keck if it would be possible to create a space where groups like hers could take people and connect them to the internet.
Keck said he would think about it, adding that it was worth considering but he doesn’t like to make commitments without having more information.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council discussed developments with two local archery teams.
Board member Jim Mitchell spoke to the board about the Pulaski County High School Archery Team, which just won the National Schools Archery Program last weekend .
Keck said he would add them to the list of school teams the board would honor at future meetings, along with the Southwester High School girls’ basketball team, which advanced to the semifinals. of the state’s Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, council member David Burdine pointed out that Somerset High School also has an archery team, and while they are able to compete, they are currently unable to hold competitions.
“They can’t have a competition because they don’t have goals,” he explained, so he offered to the city council to donate $3,000 to the team so that they can get this program up and running.
The board approved the motion unanimously.