The working homeless

Ninya Parker, 44, was homeless for two months before entering The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s St. Jude Women’s Recovery Center in March. Moving into the center, a halfway house for homeless women recovering from drug and alcohol addictions, was part of her effort to kick her addiction to crack cocaine and establish a new life, including an apartment, with her 14-year-old daughter. Another part was finding a job. Now, she works 121/2 hours a week at Cathedral of the Assumption, cleaning the kitchen, and 20 hours at a Steak n Shake. But that only brings in $235 each week before taxes. She won’t be able to afford an apartment anytime soon.

Earning too little to make rent is a growing predicament among Louisville’s homeless population, according a census of persons using local homeless services in 2005. It was conducted by the Coalition for the Homeless, and results were released last Thursday.

Among the 11,251 homeless persons counted, 28 percent were working, with nearly one-third earning less than $10 an hour. The coalition estimates that a person in Louisville needs to earn $10.83 to afford a two-bedroom apartment that rents for $563 a month, a fair market rate for the city as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The census reveals that homeless people increasingly have education and job skills, says Rachel Hurst, spokesperson for the coalition. The findings underscore the agency’s efforts to lobby for more affordable housing for low-income people and for increasing the minimum wage, now at $5.15 an hour.

The census also shows a 9-percent increase over the number who used homeless services in Louisville during 2004. (A study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that that national average of people using services in 2005 rose 6 percent over 2004.) The number of females counted rose 1.5 percent between 2004 and 2005, and veterans rose 1.7 percent. For more information, go to