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Dangerously Cold Weather Prompts City To Activate White Flag Program

U.S. Navy

Louisville officials say they are preparing for the bitter cold weather heading this way.

The National Weather Service is predicting single-digit lows overnight Tuesday and a high on Wednesday of 11 with wind chill values as low as -16.

The coming weather will activate Operation White Flag, in which three homeless shelters open their doors to people in need. The white flag alert is activated when the wind chill brings temperatures below 35 degrees. The participating shelters are the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul and Wayside Christian Mission.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Louisville Chief Resilience Officer Eric Friedlander said the city is in a better position now to help homeless people through cold weather than it has been in previous years.

“We now have an additional 100 beds at Wayside [Christian Mission] for people to be able to go in,” he said, citing additional shelters and partners. “With all of that, we’re hoping that we have provided for folks. We know that it is always going to be a challenge and we think that we are in a better position this year than we have ever been.”

In its last session of 2018, the Metro Council voted to allocate more than half a million dollars of surplus funding to boost services for the homeless.

Melissa Kratzer, Director of Development for the Coalition for the Homeless, said city funding makes it possible to offer additional shelter options for people.

“So even if you don’t want to go into the white flag program, there’s space in the low-barrier shelter,” Kratzer said. “So you can go in with your partners, with your pets, with at least some possessions, and if you are using [drugs] you are able to go in —  so that it’s just more open to anybody.”

Kratzer said there’s been 73 white flag days in Louisville since last June, and that around half of the coalition’s $32,000 grant for funding white flag days has been used. People interested in donating can do so through the coalition's website.

Jefferson County Public Schools has cancelled classes and all school activities across the district Wednesday.

Jefferson County Catholic Schools also will be closed Wednesday, as will numerous other school systems across the area.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.