Somerset City Council heard from a guest Monday night about a new program he is trying to set up statewide that would help connect people in need with the resources that would help them the most.
Russell Springs native Aaron Poynter told council members about the website/app that is already live in three counties – Russell, Hart and Barren.
KARES (Kentucky Area Resources) would be a sort of one stop shop for resources that could be searched for in each county, he said. There is a need for this kind of service, he said, because although there are plenty of groups out there that can help, often times the people who need them don’t know about them and don’t know where to look for them.
Likewise, many of those groups and services don’t know about each other, he said.
Poynter said he once gave an explanation for why this website was needed to a group of state officials, and they asked what was different about it 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 that was 70 miles away.
“For an individual that doesn’t have adequate transportation, 70 miles might as well be 700,” he said. “I knew that what I needed was across the parking lot from my office, but that’s not what was coming up. We simply 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 within 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 times the person doesn’t know what services they may 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 “Register,” which he said was for other community members such as law enforcement, recovery homes, county attorneys and the like, so that they can also have access to the list of services to help those they come across on a daily basis.
The services found under KARES would include career training, health care, government assistance, housing, child care, food needs, clothing organizations, and substance abuse facilities, among others.
Mayor Alan Keck said there is funding available on the state and federal levels to build the website, but local leadership – whether that be the city, county government or entities like SPEDA – would need to fund the annual maintenance of the site. That could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, he said.
“If you think about the return on investment, if we just help a few folks get out of addiction, get off the streets or get into a job, the return on investment is weeks or months, not years,” Keck said.
While he asked council members to keep the program in mind, one member of the audience brought up a point about internet access among the homeless.
Bridgette Fitzgerald with Welcome House said her organization often goes into the streets to do outreach and to help people secure identification. She said her main concern was that people living in the streets usually don’t have phones or access to wi-fi to be able to access a website like KARES.
She asked Keck if it would be possible to create an area where groups like hers could take people to and get them connected to the internet.
Keck said he would think about it, adding that it was worthy of consideration but that he doesn’t like to make commitments without having more information.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council discussed the developments with two local archery teams.
Council Member Jim Mitchell told the council about the Pulaski County High School archery team, which just won the National Archery in Schools Program this past weekend.
Keck said he would add them to the list of school teams that the council would honor in meetings to come, along with the Southwester High School girls basketball team, which made it to the semifinals in 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 can’t currently host meets.
“They can’t hold a competition because they don’t have the targets,” he explained, so he made a motion for the City Council to donate $3,000 to the team so they could get that program up and running.
The council approved the motion unanimously.