Louisville to put millions into medical services for the homeless, housing
Louisville Metro will direct nearly $40 million in federal funding toward affordable housing and services for residents experiencing homelessness.
The city plans to create a “community care campus” in the Smoketown neighborhood that will serve unsheltered residents. Mayor Craig Greenberg said at a press conference Thursday the city has agreed to pay $6.9 million for a large chunk of property along East Breckenridge Street for that purpose.
The campus will have a medical respite center for residents experiencing homelessness, along with 24/7 case management and temporary housing that can bridge the gap between discharge and finding a shelter bed.
“This space, when it's complete, will accommodate well over 150 people,” Greenberg said. “There’ll be centralized nursing stations. There’ll be securely locked medical supplies and prescriptions, a kitchen, a laundry facility and much more.”
The medical respite facility will share the property with The Hope Village, an outdoor safe space and living area for unsheltered residents.
Greenberg did not provide a timeline for when the community care campus would begin operation. He said Norton Healthcare, UofL Health and the Coalition for the Homeless will partner with the city to run it.
Riggs Lewis, senior vice president for health policy at Norton Healthcare, said the project began after the hospital system began looking at its admissions data over a year ago.
“You saw the same population visiting UofL Health, visiting Norton and being serviced by the Coalition for the Homeless,” he said.
Lewis said the creation of the campus is about providing “care for people where they are.” He said Norton’s hospital admissions data showed that 80% of people experiencing homelessness live in the area between downtown and the University of Louisville.
Catherine McGeeney, communications director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said they appreciated the urgency with which Louisville Metro is moving to address housing insecurity and reduce hospital readmissions.
“We know people are being discharged to the streets regularly from the hospital and that makes it impossible for them to recover,” she said.
McGeeney said Thursday’s announcement is “a great first step” toward addressing Louisville's extreme need for affordable housing. An action plan released by the Coalition on Wednesday said the city’s shelter system is overwhelmed, with just 750-850 available beds for a houseless population of nearly 1,200.
Greenberg announced the city would provide $8.25 million to community nonprofits that will assist residents at risk of being evicted or struggling to find housing.
The Louisville Urban League will receive $2 million to help people with security deposits and first month’s rent, while the Association of Community Ministries will provide $5 million to residents facing eviction. The money provided to the Community Ministries will be allocated to those who have already applied for rental assistance through Kentucky Housing Corporation.
Housing stability advocates concerned about a potential wave of evictions recently said the city was considering providing direct funding to a backlog of nearly 2,400 residents who sought assistance but didn’t receive it.
Greenberg proposed $1.25 million in funding for eviction mediation assistance and legal aid for low-income families.
Urban League CEO Kish Cumi Price said her organization will start giving out rental assistance on Feb. 20.
“We know that this is important and we want to make sure that we have a plan in place to make sure there’s no false hope,” Price said at the press conference. “We want the folks who are eligible to get these dollars and have some stability.”
Affordable housing development
Price said more funding for helping people stay in their homes will be needed to address the city’s housing crisis. A 2019 housing assessment commissioned by Louisville Metro found an unmet need of 30,000 affordable units for the city’s poorest residents.
Funding for the housing assistance announced Thursday came from federal government programs, including the Emergency Rental Assistance program. Gov. Andy Beshear allocated $38 million to Louisville late last year.
Greenberg said the city will set aside $24 million for the creation of permanent affordable housing. Developers can apply online to be considered for projects that serve residents making less than 50% of the area median income, or about $42,000 for a family of four.
Greenberg said the application period for that funding will close on March 10.
“We will move as quickly as possible after that and hope to make very rapid announcements about how that money will be deployed, so that these units of housing … can get in the ground, can be built and can open to start changing peoples’ lives immediately,” he said.
During his campaign, Greenberg said affordable housing would be one of his top priorities. He promised to create 15,000 units over the next four years.
This story has been updated.