Temperatures are expected to drop well below freezing this weekend. For most of us, that means turning up the heat, bringing in our pets, and pulling out sweaters–but for the people who sleep on the streets of Louisville on winter nights, it can mean life or death. Natalie Harris, Executive Director of The Coalition for the Homeless, explains, “Every single night, there are more people in need than there are available beds, so hundreds of individuals and families are forced to find other options each year. Many times, this means sleeping on the streets.”
This is the second winter for The Coalition for the Homeless’s Bed One-Stop program, which just won the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Award for the Art of Social Innovation. Bed One-Stop offers homeless Louisvillians a centralized, uniform way to reserve a bed at any local emergency shelter. Even so, The Coalition has had to turn away over 1,350 people in the last two months due to not having enough available beds and there are currently 53 families on the program’s waiting list.
Fortunately, during inclement weather, Operation White Flag offers a better option. When temperatures drop to 35 degrees or lower in the winter (with or without wind chill), The Coalition for the Homeless activates Operation White Flag, and three local shelters generously open their doors to make space for everyone.
“Even without a bed for each person, through Operation White Flag, all people can get a warm, safe place to stay indoors to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. We encourage all homeless people to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Harris. To make a bed reservation, call (502) 637-BEDS (502-637-2337).
Operation White Flag is possible thanks to funding from Metro Government and the hospitality of three local shelters–Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul (for men only), and Wayside Christian Mission. Unfortunately, though, the program costs more than can be covered by this funding. But, a donation of just $35 will provide a warm place for one homeless person to stay for one week during the coldest weather. Donate online at The Coalition for the Homeless’s website, www.louhomeless.org, by sending a check to The Coalition for the Homeless at 1300 S. 4th Street, Suite 250, Louisville, KY 40208, or by calling (502) 636-9550.