The city of Louisville has chosen a local, Black-led nonprofit — The Hope Buss — to run its planned safe outdoor space for houseless individuals.
The safe outdoor space, to be located on a property the city purchased at 212 E College St. in Old Louisville, is expected to open by March 1. The safe outdoor space will be called The Hope Village and will house between 40 to 50 people in tents.
Officials described the safe outdoor space as a critical step in connecting homeless individuals with services and helping them get on the path to get off the street and into housing.
“Louisville simply does not have enough affordable housing options, nor enough emergency shelter beds to house every resident. Additionally, the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness are as diverse as they are and each person deserves support that recognizes their human value and intrinsic resilience. Our culture of care should reflect that,” said Dr. Susan Buchino, director of the Homeless Services Division at the Office of Resilience and Community Services.
While the outdoor space, she added, is not a replacement for housing or shelter, it is part of a harm reduction approach that minimizes the risks of homelessness by “meeting people where they are.”
The Rev. Stachelle Bussey, the CEO of The Hope Buss and a participant in the 2020 social justice protests that followed the police killing of Breonna Taylor, said the safe outdoor space marked a transformed Louisville.
“After 2020, none of us can ever be the same,” she said. “I marched in the streets with people who I made a pledge to: That whenever I got to the table, that nothing would ever be the same. This is about equity, and I think this is the beginning of our city making equitable decisions.”
Bussey has described the Hope Buss as a mobile community center, providing food and other resources to Louisville neighborhoods.
The Hope Buss will oversee the safe outdoor space’s $1.5 million budget. While residents of the safe outdoor space will live in tents for now, the city plans to turn a building on the property into transitional housing.
The city first announced the safe outdoor space in August. However, the city said finalizing plans for the safe outdoor space was pushed back by difficulties in closing the deal to purchase the property as well as supply chain issues. Meanwhile, the city continued clearing homeless encampments.
“As a compassionate city, our goal is to help those who are experiencing homelessness transition into more stable shelter and then put them onto a path to permanent, supportive housing,” said Mayor Greg Fischer in a statement on Tuesday.
State Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville) said the establishment of the safe outdoor space was the result of how people like her, Councilman Jecorey Arthur and others “challenged the city to do more than sweep people away, throw people away — especially around Derby time.”
“It isn’t something that happened overnight. And it isn’t something that was natural for the city of Louisville,” she said. “It came because people pushed the city to say: ‘You got to do better by people who are houseless.’”
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