Louisville Magazine

JAN 2019

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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58 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 1.19 up to the son to call on behalf of his mom to check on the waitlist. (Families must check in every few days. If they haven't been heard from for a week, they will be taken off the waitlist on the assumption they've found other shelter.) A few tears slide down Nolden's cheeks when she thinks about that high school student. "I can't imagine my kids having to manage our lives like that," she says, reaching for a tissue to dab at the corner of her eyes. "He needs to be focusing on graduation. Right now, that child is having to figure out where he's going to sleep with his mom." Family homelessness has been a problem in Louisville for years, decades even. "I've been here almost 31 years. Our family shelter beds have always remained full," says Nina Moseley, the chief operation officer of Wayside Chris- tian Mission. (Wayside is currently fund- raising to expand space for families.) is past July, UP for Women and Children, a day shelter across from the new Omni Ho- tel, opened its doors, estimating it would serve 200 women and children in its first year. Within four months, 200 women and children had stopped in for a shower, clothing, diapers and wipes, food or more long-term case management. For all the talk of compassion and a pleasant cost of living in Louisville, it can be quicksand for poor families, with no tidy, sure escape. e current waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers stands at about 12,000, and thousands more are waiting for public-housing units to open. Jefferson County's eviction rate is double the national average; each year, anywhere from about 6,000 to 7,500 households are evicted. Louisville's "fair market rent" for a two-bedroom is $820. A renter would have to earn close to $16 an hour to afford that; Louisville's minimum wage is $7.25. e Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund estimates the need for decent, reasonably priced rental housing is so great that the city needs more than 65,000 units to catch up with demand. (Cities across the nation are battling similar issues with a lack of affordable housing.) Well aware of these hurdles, the Coalition has long wanted to dedicate staff toward family homelessness, both preventing those about to fall and steering those already on the streets toward something more stable. "But we had no money," says Mary Frances Schafer, the Coalition's director of com- munity coordination. en last year, the Coalition received two grants worth about $40,000. e prevention and diversion program was born. "We don't have enough preventative housing options for families," Schafer says, "so we could try to divert them, work with them on things they need to do before they get housing — like finding ways to pay off debt or somehow keeping them wherever they are. We're deal- ing with (people) who are right on the edge, so can we extend that edge a little longer." Schafer says Klein and Nolden are connecting with homeless families more effectively, checking in on them often. In the past, no one was tasked with doing that, leading to challenges when contacting families to alert them to a vacancy in one of the shelters. "If you couldn't contact them or they had no phone or it was lost, we'd go on to the next family. It was frustrating," Schafer says, "because we knew families were living on the streets and there was nothing we could do." From October 2017 through September 2018, the Coalition tallied 266 homeless families (or 853 adults and children) who were on the streets or in shelter. at's down from the previous year's total of nearly 340 families (or just over 1,000 adults and children). Explaining the drop requires context. Families in transitional housing units used to be included in that count. Within the last few years, though, transitional housing associated with local shelters has been largely replaced with a program known as rapid re-housing. Fam- ilies receive temporary housing vouchers that cover rent for a short period of time, the hope being that, when the rent assis- tance ends within a year or two, the tenant will be well-equipped to pay monthly rent on their own. Since those families are tech- nically housed, the Coalition no longer includes them in its annual homeless census. HUD touts rapid re-housing as a success, with 80 to 90 percent of families maintaining their housing. But families are not tracked over a long period of time, just six months to a year after assistance ends. "I don't think we track long enough," Schafer says. Louisville currently has close to 100 rapid re-housing vouchers in use. If tenants have stable income, rapid re-hous- ing is more likely to be successful, Schafer says, adding, "Eventually, they're going to lose assistance. When that assistance ends it could be a precarious situation." Homelessness in Louisville grabbed a lot of attention toward the end of 2018. News of two homeless individuals dying outside in freezing weather sparked outrage. e colony of men and women lined underneath the overpass on Jefferson Street spurred a unanimous vote by Metro Coun- cil to direct $500,000 in surplus money toward homeless outreach and, possibly, low-barrier shelters for the winter. In a recent written statement, Natalie Harris, the Coalition's executive director, said the congregation of homeless people under the highway is largely due to projects meant to uplift the city, like the new soccer stadium under construction in Butchertown and downtown business development. "While these efforts are positive for the majority of our citizens, they displaced people hidden in camps and abandoned buildings," she wrote, adding, "It is also important to note that sleeping outside is dangerous and uncomfortable. When people without re- sources see a spot where others are camping away from the elements, with lighting to deter crime and rodents, they see these sites as safer." (Nina Moseley says many of those lined outside her shelter simply don't want to come inside and she's frustrated by the "rampant drug use" she says is occurring.) Schafer says beyond the $500,000 pledge, more shelter is needed. And that's a bit of a boomerang. "Since I've been do- ing this — 20 years — we've been saying we do not want to build more shelters. We want to move out of shelters and move them into permanent housing. Well, yes," Schafer says, pausing. "at's what we want to do still. But we've gotten to the point where we have too many people on the street, so we're going to have to do something on both sides — families and single homeless adults — to give more opportunity for shelter, until we can get them into more permanent housing." "I didn't see a future. I just saw blank."

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