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How To Help Out During The Holidays in Louisville

Thousands of Louisville residents will be spending the holiday season on the streets or jockeying for a bed in a local homeless shelter.

In recent weeks, city leaders have touted successes in addressing homelessness among veterans, but many people are still without permanent places to live.

More than 125,000 Louisville residents will spend this holiday season living in poverty, according to U.S. Census data. A recent report from Kentucky Youth Advocates shows that more than 43,000 of the city’s children are living in poverty.

Here are some ways people can help out.

Contribute To a Shelter

Shelters are at capacity most nights. About 1,350 people have been turned away from full shelters in recent months, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. And there are currently more than 50 families in Jefferson County waiting for placement in a shelter.

The Coalition for the Homeless notes there are many opportunities to help this vulnerable population during the holiday season.

For example, residents can join the Coalition's "Five Buck A Month" Club, which through $5 monthly donations provides supplemental funding to shelters who open their doors to anyone in need when temperatures dip to 35 degrees or lower. These nights are called White Flag Nights, and many shelters often run out of funding before winter ends, said Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition.

Food Donations

Another way to help is through food. Instead of throwing away excess food on the holidays, Kentucky Harvest offers a leftover pickup service that residents can use to send their extra eats to people in need.

Food pickups can be scheduled ahead of time. The effort helps provide food to more than 120 missions, shelters and food pantries.

Making some sandwiches and handing them out to the homeless also works, the coalition notes. If people would rather provide food to the homeless with a group, they can also volunteer with groups such as Forgotten Louisville or the Burrito Riders, which make regular trips into the community to distribute food to Louisville's homeless.

Clothes, Toys and More

Any gently used clothes, coats, furniture, toys or decorations can also be dropped off to Wayside Christian Mission or St. Vincent de Paul. Volunteers are also needed at St. Vincent de Paul to help check-in residents during White Flag Nights throughout the winter.

The Salvation Army also accepts donations of unwrapped toys for children this holiday season. The group's Angel Tree program and Red Kettle campaign also offer residents the chance to help provide children with holiday gifts.

Used cell phones are accepted by the Center for Women and Families. The phones provide the center's clients the means to make a call if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.

Hundreds of other volunteer opportunities are also available, from working to assist refugees to helping children in need. To find these opportunities visit the Metro United Way's searchable online portal.

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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