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There Were 8,600 Homeless People in Louisville Last Year, Here's What Officials Are Doing About It


The most recent Louisville Homeless Census shows that 8,608 people visited a shelter or spent time on the street in 2013.This is just a two percent decrease from the previous year. Officials said they struggle to provide needed services, despite having more than 30 organizations working with homeless in Jefferson County. Now officials at Louisville homeless shelters and service providers hope a new program will help move more people into permanent housing in the city.Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said the new Common Assessment program is geared towards providing people with resources to find permanent housing.“There hasn’t been anyone looking at the overall issue of homelessness and all the vacancies and trying to get the right person in the right place,” she said.  “Our hope is this is going to make the whole system move faster in the long term so we can get more people out of the system.”Nearly 16 percent of the more than 8,600 documented homeless people in 2013 were moved into permanent housing, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.Harris said Louisville’s homeless rates are consistent with other comparable cities.“There are some subsets that are higher or lower here,” she said.  “We have a lower number of homeless veterans, we have a much higher amount of domestic violence, we have more people in shelters that are working, but they are making less money,” she said.Data from the homeless census shows that more than 1,300 people were homeless as a result of domestic violence.Marta Miranda, president of the Center for Women and Families, said these people are not only without a home, they are also traumatized.“Their life has been threatened and they could be at risk of being killed,” she said.She said economic hardships result in a struggle to provide services for everyone who has needs.“We have had a 33 percent increase or request for services, while we see a 17-20 percent decrease in federal, state and local funding,” Miranda said.  “It puts us in a horrible spot.”Miranda said her shelter turns away more than 100 people, daily.Support from Metro Government provides the Center for Women and Familieswith enough funds to employ two advocates, Miranda said.“We get about $80,000 to help a program that costs $350,000 to run,” she said.Funding for the Common Assessment program will come through a grant from a program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The funds are part of a $9 million total allocation that supports 42 programs serving the homeless in Louisville, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.Harris said the Common Assessment will ensure that people are getting the services they need.“Every single person, no matter what shelter or agency they are being served by can be assessed to determine who has the greatest needs and what is the right service for that person,” she said.  “Right now, we are so overwhelmed in the shelters that people go to the next open slot and that may not be the best place for them.”

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.