Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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2 2 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.14 Abit DEEPER R aymond Schafer looks around the dark construction site. A lone light illuminates the sleeping bulldozers around him. Te air is still, 14 degrees, too cold to talk. Tat's fne. Better to go in silence. Cars on the overpass above, one at a time and far apart, occasionally break the quiet. It is 4 a.m. Te morning commute hasn't yet started. But Schafer is at work, dressed heavy, head to toe, knit cap to overalls to boots. He doesn't seem like a 58-year-old man with a graying beard and a balding head when he scales the sharp concrete incline below the overpass like a mountain goat. He is somewhere east of downtown between Franklin Street and Witherspoon Street but will only know that after consulting his map later. A passing truck shakes the foundation above him, but Schafer doesn't finch. He approaches the top, where the concrete levels into a sort of crawl space. Someone could lie down here. Schafer hunches, almost crawling, eyes hard and careful, expression impenetrable. "Hello?" he says. Since 2008 Schafer has been working as a program aide at the St. John Center for Homeless Men, which provides shelter and recovery services to some 2,000 men each year. Tis is his sixth year volunteering in the Louisville Coalition for the Homeless' Point in Time Count, which is held each year in January. On this last Tursday of January, 166 volunteers in 41 teams of four or fve gather at the Wayside Christian Mission, then disperse to search all of Jeferson County for homeless people. Te volunteers collect personal and medical histories from anyone they fnd and add that information to data from shelter residents. It's a census for the homeless. Schafer's team is mostly veteran counters, including Jack Lydon, a retired insurance salesman and St. John volunteer; Tony Glore, with a job at the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District; and Tammy Moran, a newcomer who works in the shipping department of a local hospital. "(Schafer) is like some kind of homeless-seeking ninja," Glore says. "One year he found an encampment in the woods around where Headliners Music Hall is. Ten there was the time we found that couple in a tent where the road goes under the railroad (in Irish Hill). He was jumping over logs and climbing all over. You just get a little of the path you're used to following and it's like there's this whole other world and culture." Te team splits up in the skate park near Slugger Field. Glore and Lydon head south, leaving the park and surrounding area to Moran and Schafer. At this hour, the skate park looks like Salvador Dali's drained swimming pool, but with more grafti. Schafer looks up at I-65. He sees hiding places like a hawk sees mice. He bounds up the hill toward the highway, coming to a chain-link fence overgrown with dead vines. He looks through the bushes. Again, nothing. Te team reunites beneath another overpass, closer to the waterfront, and Schafer climbs again. A fence runs along a hillside by the overpass. Tere's a hole at the bottom, just big enough to squeeze through. Schafer crawls through without a word and rushes through the thick bushes on the other side, chasing someone who might not be there. Te bare bushes rip at his clothes. He doesn't stop. Te ground is steep, uneven. He doesn't stop. He can't see his team anymore, and his team probably couldn't hear him if he called out. He doesn't stop. Schafer comes to a pile of refuse in the thicket. Nobody there. He crawls up to the highway and walks along the guardrail back toward his team. A car passes, the driver probably wondering what the hell Schafer's doing. Is this guy homeless or something? Once back down, Schafer and Moran head along the waterfront while Lydon and Glore double back toward Main Street. Lights dance of the water in the middle of the Ohio, but dull, gray ice holds to the bank. Tey head through the empty park, taking the weirdest stroll of their lives. "If it was summer, you could probably fnd people sleeping on these benches," Schafer says. Moran follows Schafer through the park to Joe's Crab Shack, skipping around thick patches of ice. Schafer plows straight through them. Tey search beneath the elevated restaurant's walkways, near a man-made inlet of the river. Joe's Crab Shack is hardly a strange place, but it is in the frigid morning. It is when you're looking for people who have no homes, no heat, no food on the table. No table. In 2013, there were 1,445 homeless people recorded in Louisville. "Te whole country has seen a decline in chronic homelessness (those folks you see regularly wandering the streets) and veteran homelessness, and a rise in homelessness among young adults, ages 18 to 25," says Natalie Harris, executive director of the coalition. Funding cuts aren't helping. "Tere were 52 families on one waiting list for a shelter. When you have waiting lists for shelters, something's not working," Harris says. Te team reunites near the Galt House Hotel, which sparkles in sharp contrast to the dark night, to the morbid hunt. Somewhere outside the glamorous walls, 70 people are sleeping in the cold. Tat's seven more than 2013's count but 82 less than in 2012, when 152 people were sleeping outside. Schafer doesn't fnd anyone outside this year. He smiles, frowns, experiences the confict between wanting to fnd people and wanting to fnd nobody. "I've found no one in danger of dying tonight," he says. Other teams can't say the same thing. Search for the Shelterless A cold morning spent counting the homeless. By Dylon Jones Illustration by Bart Galloway 12-25 BIT.indd 22 2/19/14 1:03 PM

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