Officials Explain Delays As Louisville’s Safe Outdoor Space Nears Opening Date

On Thursday, city officials provided an update on the planned Safe Outdoor Space that will shelter homeless people in ice fishing tents on city-owned land in Old Louisville, saying that barring further delays, the program is hoped to be operational by the end of the month.

“We have had some significant issues with supply chain challenges getting us to this day and we hope that they won’t interrupt us here as we approach the end of the month,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Thursday afternoon, in front of several blue ice fishing huts already assembled at the site. “When everything’s here, we will be ready.”

The press conference in a paved lot at 212 E. College St. provided a glimpse at the work being done at what will become The Hope Village. At the space on Thursday, seven tents set on wooden platforms had been set up and there were piles of debris from trees being cleared that members of the media had to navigate around. Electrical outlets protruded from the asphalt. 

The Safe Outdoor Space project was first announced in August of last year. In January, the city announced that small Black-led nonprofit The Hope Buss would oversee the $1.5 million project and set an expected opening date of March 1. However, that opening date was pushed back.

On Thursday, The Hope Buss founder and CEO Stachelle Bussey asked for continued patience. 

“We have an incredible opportunity in our city to do something that we never tried before. Be patient with us, be patient with The Hope Buss, be patient with Metro as we all just explore ways to create alternatives for people who are living on the streets of this city,” she said.

Part of the reason for delays, Bussey said, was that she’s “very, very particular.” As an example, she related how earlier on Thursday she had asked about pressure washing the lot because she didn’t want people walking on dirt. 

“People are not just coming here to live, but they are coming here for safety and stability, and we want this place to look as home as possible,” she said. “We call it The Hope Village for a reason. Because the village is not just in here, but it’s every one of us. It’s all of us coming together.” 

The learning curve for her small organization is continuing, with Bussey saying that she only recently found out that it would cost $6,000 per month to have mobile showers at the facility. 

When The Hope Village opens, it will be home to up to 53 people housed in 48 tents. Some tents will be dedicated for couples, and dogs and cats will be allowed to live at the site. The Hope Village will accept residents only on a referral-basis, and, on Thursday, Bussey said they have already started receiving referrals. The project aims to meet people experiencing homelessness where they are at, providing safety while connecting them with resources that aim to ultimately get them into indoor housing.

Vincent James, who was formerly the city’s head of community building and now leads the Dare to Care Food Bank, expressed optimism in the city’s approach to finding solutions to affordable housing. 

“Hopefully, 10 years from now, we won’t be standing here in this Hope Village, because this Hope Village will turn into permanent housing, where every citizen has access to permanent housing,” he said. 

LEO profiled The Hope Buss for the cover story of the March 2 issue. Check out the deep dive on the scrappy nonprofit here.

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