Louisville opening three more low-barrier shelters with surplus money

Louisville will have four low-barrier options for the city’s homeless population starting Jan. 14, paid for with over $540,000 in surplus from the Metro Council, the mayor said Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, Louisville had no low-barrier shelters — shelters that allow homeless people to enter regardless of whether they’re with a partner, have a pet or are intoxicated. Wayside Christian Mission opened one on its own the day before Christmas at 432 E. Jefferson St.

Chad Caine, the president of Keep Louisville Warm, a local outreach organization, told LEO he appreciated Wayside’s initiative but is glad that homeless people will soon have more options in the downtown area. Since Christmas Eve, he’s interviewed 75 homeless people, and only one knew about Wayside’s shelter. 

“It’s the option,” he said. “For a disabled person, maybe not to have walk to Wayside or that kind of thing, it’s going to be helpful.”

In addition to opening the low-barrier shelters, totaling 140 beds, the city’s funding will, according to a news release:

—Devote $45,791 for storage for the belongings of homeless people with dumpster and weekly collection service

—Provide meals for over 130 people in 24/7 shelter.

—Create a team of outreach workers to connect homeless men and women to shelter, housing and support services.

—Provide options to house pets on site, with food and medical services for them.

There is enough city money to fund these initiatives through June.

Some services will not be provided, city officials said. Those including resources for the medicinally-abandoned homeless population; transportation to and from shelters, storage and services; and city-sponsored encampment.

Still, Caine was overwhelmed by the steps that the city was able to make. 

“I just can’t take it in right now,” he said. 

Mayor Greg Fischer and other city leaders and community outreach representatives announced their plan at a press conference on Wednesday.

A race to provide low-barrier options for Louisville’s homeless started Dec. 13 when the council unanimously passed its resolution to fund solutions to the city’s homelessness crisis.

Louisville’s Office of Resilience and Community Services was asked to create a plan by Jan. 2, and the city’s shelters were allowed to submit proposals for funding.

Before the city could announce its solutions, Wayside Christian Mission opened the city’s first low-barrier shelter.

The shelter, called Wayside Rescue Station, will remain Louisville’s largest low-barrier shelter, but The Healing Place, Volunteers of America and St. Stephen Baptist Church  also are offering their services.

The Healing Place’s shelter, located at 1019 W. Market St., will hold 24 men; St. Stephen Baptist Church will make room for six families at the Youngs Performing Arts Center at 1039 S. 16th St.; and Volunteers of America will shelter 10 families at Hotel Louisville, 120 W. Broadway St. Both family shelters will offer rapid rehousing services.

In the news release, Fischer said that the city’s new efforts to address homelessness join other initiatives that he started last year with the Homeless Encampment Task Force, created to better understand and review the needs of Louisville’s homeless population.

“One of the things we’ve learned from our work so far is that to really meet our homeless citizens’ needs, we have to understand each of them as individuals, where they’ve come from, what they’ve been through and what they’re facing. It’s not all the same for every person. This plan will help elevate our work, but there are still many challenges ahead,” Fischer said, adding, “We’re going to keep working this until every Louisvillian has a place to call home.”

As part of their funding resolution, Metro Council requires Fischer to provide more permanent solutions to the city’s homelessness crisis by April when he presents Louisville’s budget.

Councilman Bill Hollander, who initially proposed using the surplus funding, said in a statement that the plan is a beginning. “Homelessness has many causes and no one solution. The work we are starting now recognizes those facts, will help get some Louisvillians experiencing homelessness off of our streets, and will serve as a bridge to a more permanent plan to address their needs.”

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith said, “Funding for low-barrier shelters and services for those experiencing homelessness will be a budget priority for 2020 as we on Metro Council work through this coming budget cycle.”