By Fox 56

LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — A group of 26 Lexington churches is urging local leaders to take action against community problems. B.U.I.L.D., which stands for Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action, is hosting a conference, called Nehemiah Action, to address issues on housing, mental health, and violence.

B.U.I.L.D. has hosted this conference since 2003. Each year, members share concerns and what they want to see changed in the city.

Their top priority is to curb violent crime. In Lexington, homicides are down this year, but in 2022, the city set a new record for homicides at 44. Members also argue for reliable transportation for people with mental illnesses so they can easily go to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store. Another concern is more affordable housing for the thousands of families, B.U.I.L.D. says, pay more than half of their income on rent.

Organizers expect more than 1,500 people to attend today’s event at the Central Bank Center, including Councilmember James Brown, Councilmember Chuck Ellinger, Councilmember Jennifer Reynolds, Councilmember Tayna Fogle, Councilmember Dave Sevigny, Councilmember Denise Gray, and Fayette County Attorney Angela Evans.

B.U.I.L.D. plans to present evidence-based solutions to these problems and expects leaders to listen, respond and act.

One of the group’s goals is to end the cycle of violence. Members want the city to launch the Group Violence Intervention Program with the support of the National Network for Safe Communities. However, Mayor Linda Gorton has said in the past she’s concerned that GVI targets minority groups and hasn’t worked in some cities. B.U.I.L.D. says more than 80 cities use the program and plans to ask Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers to visit two of them: New Haven, Connecticut, and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Another policy they want in place is to set up a pilot program for a mictrotransit service, which would provide rides on demand similar to Uber, helping people with mental illness get to appointments safely and quickly.

Lastly, they want at least $10 million a year in dedicated funding for affordable housing. In 2014, the group influenced the city to create a $2 million affordable housing fund. They say the money didn’t last long and the city needs to invest more.

The conference starts at 7 p.m.

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