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Louisville Homeless Numbers Drop, But Thousands Remain Without Housing

Thousands of residents in Louisville are homeless.

Some 6,300 people lived in shelters or on the streets across the city in 2016, according to the most recent homeless census.

The annual count was released last week by the Coalition for the Homeless. The group conducts annual street counts each winter to gauge the scope of the city's homeless population.

The most recent count shows about a 5 percent drop in the overall population of homeless residents in Louisville from 2016. The count is part of an overall downward trend in Louisville's homeless population — the number of homeless people in 2015 was about 13 percent lower than it was in 2014.

Yet still, about 1,000 children remain without a home and more than 3,500 people with disabilities spend nights in shelters and on the street, according to the count. The data also showed shelters across the city are consistently at or near capacity, and more than 800 people occupy these shelters on any given night in Louisville.

The number of homeless victims of domestic violence continues to climb as well, according to the data.

Coalition director Natalie Harris said the trend is evidence that "our community must work across multiple systems to address contributing factors in order to reach our ultimate goal of ending homelessness.”

City officials in recent years worked to get veterans into housing and, in turn, were able to reduce the city’s homeless veteran population by nearly 400 people.

Harris said getting people into housing “is the only way to truly end homelessness.”

Mayor Greg Fischer wants to allocate about $14 million for initiatives to boost the city's stock of affordable housing, according to his recently released spending plan.

Housing advocates estimate approximately 60,000 households in Louisville spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and nearly 24,000 of those spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing, according to U.S. Census data.

Families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be cost-burdened. They may struggle to afford other necessities such as food, clothing and medical care, and are at risk of becoming homeless.

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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