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Photo: Louisville Metro Council

Over the last two years, much attention has been focused on efforts to help the homeless in Louisville Metro. One organization works with the Metro Council and other agencies to find ways to address the problem.

Councilwoman Madonna Flood (D-24) announces the next South Central Regional Forum will focus on the work of The Coalition for the Homeless on Wednesday, October 16th.

“Homelessness is a great challenge for many cities and Louisville Metro is no exception,” says the Councilwoman. “The Coalition knows first-hand the scope of the situation and resources the city uses to deal with the problem.”

The forum is set for the South Central Regional Library at 7400 Jefferson Boulevard from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

Natalie Harris, Executive Director of the Coalition has been invited to talk about the group’s mission. The Coalition educates the community about homelessness and inspires action, advocates for system change and coordinates the community response to homelessness through efficient use of resources and funding.

“If you have a question or would like a better understanding of the homeless issue in the community, then I encourage you to come and join us” says Flood.

Code Enforcement Officers and LMPD Officers will also be present at the forum to answer public safety and other questions.

The South Central Regional Forums are sponsored by Councilwoman Flood and Council members Mark Fox (D-13), Barbara Shanklin (D-2) and James Peden (R-23).

For more information about this South Central Regional Forum, contact Councilwoman Flood’s office at 574-1124.

Mayor Greg Fischer joined with Metro Council members and community outreach representatives yesterday to announce the initiatives that will receive Louisville Metro Government funding to continue addressing the needs of homeless individuals and families in the city.

Building on work started early in 2019 when the city allocated $500,000 for programs, the plan provides $1 million from the city’s FY20 operating budget toward initiatives chosen in collaboration with the Coalition for the Homeless to align with the eight recommendations outlined in the University of Louisville study, “Solving Street Homelessness in Louisville, Kentucky,” released in June.

“Louisville, like many American cities, has seen a rise in unsheltered homelessness in recent years and an increase in homeless encampments. We’ve made clear progress but there’s more work to do to ensure that every Louisvillian has a place to call home,” said Mayor Fischer said, adding that, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We have to help our homeless population deal with and overcome their challenges one person at a time. That’s what a compassionate city does.”

The allocations include:

  • Funding to move the transitional storage launched at a temporary location in March 2019 to a permanent location at the Salvation Army that will have expanded hours. The storage provides a place where individuals experiencing homelessness can store their belongings when going into shelter.
  • Three options for low-barrier shelter beds via St. Vincent de Paul, Wayside Christian Mission, and the Healing Place.
  • Continued funding for rapid rehousing services and emergency shelter for homeless families, provided by Volunteers of America.
  • Ongoing street outreach teams enhanced by social workers and other professionals who can provide behavioral and mental health counseling, drug and alcohol addiction assessments and counseling services, as well as legal expertise.
  • And the University of Louisville is given the task of evaluating the effectiveness of the individual programs in this initiative.

The newest round of funding is part of work begun in fall 2017 when Mayor Fischer created the Homeless Encampment Task Force, chaired by Eric Friedlander, director of the Office of Resilience and Community Services.

That team helped inform decisions made about the funding allocations in January, which resulted in these outcomes:

  • Wayside has provided 19,607 nights of lodging to a total of nearly 740 different people since opening its low-barrier shelter.
  • Nearly 240 people have found a safe, secure place to store their belongings at the storage units temporarily operated by St. John Center.
  • Nearly 500 clients were served by outreach teams from the St. John Center & UP Louisville.
  • The Healing Place added 24 low-barrier shelter beds, and Volunteers of America served 17 families through various rapid rehousing paths and 63 families at family emergency shelter.

“We know that no one idea will address the multiple issues impacting people who are homeless, nor the complex needs of this diverse population,” said Friedlander. “That’s why I am so appreciative of the work, expertise and understanding of our partners, including organizations that are part of the coalition, and the street outreach groups that engage people where they are. Working together, we’ve shown we can make a difference.”

Metro Councilman Bill Hollander (District 9) said: “This funding builds on the work we started in January.  It provides shelter for men, women and families and also funds outreach workers who can help address the root causes of homelessness.  Even as Louisville Metro deals with a very difficult budget, we can’t ignore the needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.”

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (District 4) said:  “Our local government is focused on implementing common sense solutions for the complex challenges surrounding those experiencing homelessness. I have stated several times before, there is room for everyone to step up and help. In addition to the more than $1.5 million made available during this past year we still need more businesses, nonprofit organizations, healthcare, education and the interfaith communities to reimagine their roles and create common sense solutions that will produce real results for real people needing assistance because this is our reality.”

Friedlander added that the city also provides support to issues that directly affect homelessness, including $41 million invested in affordable housing over the past four years, implementing a plan to battle substance-use disorders, and directing $1.5 million in federal funding to local agencies such as the coalition, Volunteers of America, St. John Center and Wayside.

“The Coalition for the Homeless is so excited to see the city’s commitment to addressing the needs and best practices identified in the University of Louisville ‘Solving Street Homeless in Louisville, Kentucky’ Study,” said Natalie Harris, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless.  “We know these important programs saved lives over the last six months and are excited to see them extended and improved.”

The U of L report, “Solving Street Homelessness in Louisville, Kentucky,” was the result of a five-month long assessment study that outlined the process of applying best practices to Louisville’s Continuum of Care (CoC), a process developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that helps communities across America address the problems of homelessness in a coordinated, comprehensive and strategic way.

Colonels Act On Louisville Homeless

The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels (HOKC) will award a $25,000 emergency grant for specific tangible items to the Coalition for the Homeless, a Louisville organization working to prevent and end homelessness.

HOKC Commanding General Lynn Ashton said, “Our intent is to get the ball rolling and encourage other non-profit organizations and the Louisville community to join us and partner with the Coalition.”

HOKC Executive Director Sherry Crose added, “We recognize the hard work of Metro Government with the challenge of homelessness in the downtown area, but they cannot do it themselves. This is the home of our headquarters and also where the state’s biggest homeless population exists.”

Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Natalie Harris said: “We cannot thank Metro Louisville and the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels enough for seeing this important community need and leading the way to make change. We can reach the goal of helping those in need by following Metro Government’s lead and the HOKC through gifts from our compassionate community, but only if everyone gives what they can to help our homeless neighbors.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith added: “I am grateful and not surprised that more organizations and individuals are stepping up to help those experiencing homelessness in our community. Hats off to the Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels for leading the way with a major financial donation! It is my hope many more will follow.”

HOKC is a 501(c)(3) supporting Kentucky charities and worthy organizations through its Good Works Program. All donations are given by Colonels appointed by the Governor, who chose to exercise this honor in a meaningful way.  For more information go to www.kycolonels.org.

The Metro Council’s Budget Committee has approved $546,791 in an effort to deal with the current homeless problem in Metro Louisville. The funding was found as part of the year-end budget adjustment after the completion of audits of the 2017 -2018 Operating and Capital Budgets.

“This appropriation will help us deal with a shelter system in crisis serving a population in crisis. The new services will serve as a bridge to a more permanent plan to address these needs,” said Councilman Bill Hollander (D-9), who chairs the Committee.

“The Metro Government has enough growth to allow the Metro Council to increase our funding for emergency homeless assistance. This is being done in a bipartisan manner as we recognized this is an issue we must address as a united community,” said Councilman Kevin Kramer (R-11), who is the Committee’s vice chair.

Pending full Council approval, the funding will support several partnerships with nonprofit groups who provide shelter and services for the homeless in Metro Louisville. The initial goal is to temporarily find additional beds and storage lockers for people experiencing homelessness as the city gets ready for another cold winter.

“We recognize these are complicated challenges and we are laser focused on common sense solutions. I am confident the emergency temporary sheltering plan will produce a collective impact. Our goal is to make sure anyone wanting to sleep inside has a place to go. Louisville – TOGETHER, we can do this!” said Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (D-4).

“Let’s be clear. This is not yet a solid plan to address the problem, but rather earmarking and reserving funds for a concept for a plan to address the crisis.  I have great faith in Eric Friedlander and the Office of Resilience and Community Services in providing us with this initial plan. We still have much work to do and little time to do it in order to try to make a timely impact to protect this vulnerable portion of our population,” said Councilman Brent Ackerson (D-26).

A longer term goal is to develop a low barrier shelter while expanding beds in existing facilities. A low barrier shelter relaxes some of the rules for those facilities which maintain programs, food and shelter for homeless men, women, and families.

The measure moves on to the full Council for a vote on December 13th.

Coalition for the HomelessLouisville’s homeless population will have an opportunity to access services, information and assistance in a one-stop environment at the 2016 Project Homeless Connect/VA Stand Down, on Wednesday, October 5. Resources available at the event will include food, clothing, medical evaluations, help with employment, education and benefit services and many other forms of assistance.

The event takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (entry doors will close at 1 p.m.) at The Salvation Army (Old Male High School) campus located at 911 S. Brook St. in Louisville. Several TARC buses will provide access throughout the day from emergency shelters to the event site. The event is coordinated by the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), Louisville Metro Community Services, Coalition for the Homeless and other community partners including The Salvation Army.

The Project Homeless Connect/VA Stand Down (PHC/Stand Down) is an annual one-day community outreach project where representatives from community service organizations come together to address the collective needs of the homeless during a single visit. This event is made possible by the work of hundreds of volunteers and resources from the United States Veteran Association (U.S.V.A.), Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, Louisville Metro Government and Louisville Metro Council.

The latest numbers from the 2015 Homeless Census indicate 6,737 individuals were homeless at some point in Louisville last year — either on the streets, in homeless shelters or accessing services through Louisville’s homeless service providers. A variety of factors can lead to homelessness and often these individuals may be victims of domestic violence, disabled, veterans or senior citizens.

At last year’s event approximately 560 persons participated receiving a variety of individual services including State of KY ID cards, flu shots and other medical exams and services, housing linkages, mainstream benefit access (SSI/SSDI), clothing, food and general case management services. The “Stand Down” event, named for the military concept of renewal, personal care, etc., is replicated from a national service delivery model that has proven to be crucial in eliminating barriers to housing, employment, education and the myriad of other factors that contribute to long-term homelessness.

“This is a vital event for our community because it allows our service providers to connect much-needed resources to our homeless residents”, stated Mayor Greg Fischer.  “It also allows us a great opportunity to measure the needs of our homeless population so that we can come together to be more responsive”.

As an added feature at this year’s event, a number of University of Louisville student-athletes will be available to meet attendees of PHC/Stand Down thanks to CardsCARE, U of L Athletic’s Community Outreach Program.

Also offered will be a foot-washing service provided by community volunteers and the Coalition for the Homeless. Many individuals experiencing homelessness have issues with their feet due to diabetes, frostbite and other exposure issues. Every participant at Project Homeless Connect/Stand Down will be invited to soak their feet and have them examined by medical volunteers. Members of Louisville Metro RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) have also led a sock and towel drive so that each participant can leave with new socks and healthier, cleaner feet.

For more information about the Homeless Connect event contact:
Jamie Watts – Louisville VAMC Homeless Supervisory Coordinator at 502-287-4176
Eric Friedlander – Louisville Metro Community Services at 502-574-3926
Natalie Harris – Coalition for the Homeless at 502-636-9550

Fifteen local agencies collaborate to find housing for 360 homeless veterans

Coalition for the HomelessMayor Greg Fischer and The Coalition for the Homeless today unveiled an ambitious plan to eliminate veteran homelessness in Louisville by the end of this year. The initiative, titled Rx: Housing Veterans, will find permanent housing for the 360 known homeless veterans in our city and will rely on the resources of more than 15 local agencies. To date, these organizations have raised over $9.6 million for Rx: Housing Veterans.

The detailed plan comes just months after Fischer signed the national pledge to end veteran homelessness in this community and created an action committee coordinated by The Coalition for the Homeless.

“We accepted the challenge to end veteran homelessness and thanks to the efforts and collaboration of our Rx Housing Veterans team, our goal to become a Zero2016 community is making great strides,” Fischer said. “This does not discount the other men, women and children who face homelessness in our community. We will continue to focus on helping them in the coming year with our ultimate goal to house every homeless person who wants housing.”

“We firmly believe that no one who wore our country’s uniform should have to live or die on the streets of Louisville,” said Executive Director for The Coalition for the Homeless Natalie Harris. “And, we are committed to working together to ensure that no one will.”

The strategy behind Rx: Housing Veterans is based on national research that shows that approximately one-third of homeless veterans are chronically homeless and need permanent supportive housing, another one-third need a short-term subsidy and one-third are transitional and need community support and linkages to employment plus a deposit to make it into housing.

The first step of the plan is to assess all 360 veterans and determine which category of support they need. The Robley Rex VA Hospital, which identifies and assists homeless veterans, and Family Health Centers, which perform common assessments of the homeless, have agreed to make changes in procedures to ensure that homeless veterans have immediate access to all of the services they qualify to receive.

The Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) and Robley Rex VA Hospital Homeless Programs have accessed 369 HUD-VASH housing vouchers. Additionally, LMHA set aside 40 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development housing vouchers matched with a $1.5 million SAHMSA grant awarded to Family Health Centers and is committed to making housing units available as needed to meet the community goal. Because it takes 30-180 days for homeless veterans to access permanent housing, the plan also includes more emergency/transitional shelter options, which will be provided by the VA at Interlink Counseling Services, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul and Wayside Christian Mission.

The veterans who qualify for short-term subsidies will receive approximately 12 months of assistance to get back on their feet through the VOA’s Support Services for Veteran Families program. Those who don’t qualify will be referred to Louisville Metro Community Services’ Rapid-Rehousing Program.

Volunteers of America will help integrate transitional veterans into the community through assistance with employment, substance abuse counseling, debt management, start-up funding for housing needs, and case management. The Legal Aid Society will work with veterans on legal matters and other needs. Local employers are encouraged to support Rx: Housing Veterans by committing to hiring veterans.

All 360 identified homeless veterans will need access to an average of $650 in security deposits and approximately $1,100 in household items. Donations from the community will be allocated towards this portion of the plan and would do the most to support the effort to end veteran homelessness. Funding is especially needed for furniture (something to sit on, eat on, and sleep on) and household items like sheets and dishes, as well as deposits to access new apartments. Monetary donations can be sent to the Louisville Community Foundation, 325 West Main Street #1110, Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 585-4649. For questions or to get involved in other ways, contact The Coalition for the Homeless at (502) 636-9550.

Rx: Housing Veterans is the locally-inspired initiative of Zero: 2016, a national campaign led by Community Solutions to help communities do whatever it takes to end chronic and Veteran homelessness in the next two years. Rx: Housing Veterans is the second initiative for the Rx: Housing program. The first Rx: Housing effort, launched in 2011, decreased the number of chronically homeless people living on the streets of Louisville by more than 50%.

Local agencies participating in the Rx: Housing Veterans program include The Mayor’s Office, The Coalition for the Homeless, St. Vincent de Paul, Interlink Counseling Services, Volunteers of America (VOA), Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA), Veterans for Peace, Restoration Center, Louisville Metro Community Services, Robley Rex VA Hospital Homeless Programs (VA), Family Health Centers (FHC), St. John Center, The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA), Legal Aid Society, the Brain Injury Alliance, Veterans Community Alliance of Louisville (VCAL), Seven Counties Services and Catholic Charities.

To learn more about Rx: Housing Veterans and to see the detailed plan, visit www.louhomeless.org or www.louisvilleky.gov.

Coalition for the HomelessTemperatures 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.

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