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Cold Brings Season's First White Flag Night In Louisville

Temperatures are expected to dip close to freezing this weekend, meaning Louisville homeless shelters are expecting a surge in people looking to get in out of the cold.

This fall's first Operation White Flag night — in which three homeless shelters open their doors to anyone in need, regardless of bed space — will be this weekend.

St. Vincent de Paul, Wayside Christian Mission and the Salvation Army will be open all weekend, and anyone without a place to go is encouraged to take advantage to stay warm.

"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," Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a news release.

Operation White Flag nights occur whenever temperatures dip to 35 degrees or below.

On these nights, shelters take in more than 200 more people than other nights. On non-White Flag nights, hundreds of homeless may be turned away from shelters due to a lack of space. About 1,350 people have been turned away in recent months, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Although Louisville officials have touted recent efforts to end homelessness among veterans, thousands of other residents are still living on the city's streets.

There are currently more than 50 families in Jefferson County waiting for placement in a shelter.

“That means that there are families sleeping in cars or maybe even sleeping outside while they’re waiting to get into a shelter,” Harris said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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