Homelessness was already a growing issue in western Kentucky when the pandemic struck and made the problem worse.

To help individuals and communities find ways out of poverty and decrease home insecurity, Mercy Health - Lourdes Hospital is sponsoring a one-year AmeriCorps VISTA member who will serve with United Way of Paducah-McCracken County. This position is a program of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky.

“LaDonna Burton began her VISTA service on August 30 and will work to impact the growing housing crisis in the Paducah-McCracken County area.” said Kelly Davis, Chief Operations Officer, United Way of Paducah-McCracken County. “She’s working to increase donor and volunteer capacity, which will increase anti-poverty efforts through our partner agencies. The more dollars and volunteers she can help us bring in, the more we can do for those agencies keeping people in their homes.”

The United Way of Paducah-McCracken County works with 13 partner agencies to help area residents with rent, utilities, prescriptions and dental care, among other services.

“We don’t want to have people in a position where they need to choose between filling a prescription and paying their rent,” says Davis. “The work that LaDonna is doing will help put more dollars into those programs that keep people healthy, happy and in their homes. We appreciate Mercy Health sponsoring this VISTA service opportunity.”

The VISTA project is focused on

  • Tracking and managing volunteers, donations and in-kind resources
  • Building additional capacity that can be used by partner agencies to help keep people in their homes
  • Providing resources to those requesting services and housing assistance
  • Supporting agencies who help maintain safe and affordable housing

One of LaDonna’s first assignments was helping with Project United, the United Way’s annual day of service. Over 430 volunteers joined together to complete 55 community projects including landscaping, painting and resurfacing driveways at local non-profit organizations.

“LaDonna’s work – and that of all of our amazing volunteers – helped those organizations save money on building upkeep so they could direct those funds toward their mission of helping our community members,” said Davis.

“Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital understands the close connection between home insecurity and healthcare,” said Leigh Ann Ballegeer, Mercy Health Community Health Director. “We can’t expect our community to be its healthiest when so many people are struggling with housing and other basic human needs. We are committed to being a partner in addressing these social determinants of health.”

In addition to this partnership with the United Way, Lourdes Hospital provided a donation to Paducah Public Schools, McCracken County Public Schools and the Paducah Community Kitchen in late 2020 in order to address the problem of homelessness among the student population. The funds were used for those students and families who are either homeless or at-risk for becoming homeless during the winter months. All three organizations have seen an increase in need due the COVID pandemic.