Community

The recent cold snap has exhausted half of the budget for Louisville’s Operation White Flag program, officials said Tuesday. The program provides shelter for people during inclement weather.

Operation White Flag was activated a record 21 days last month and seven days this month, according to a news release from the Coalition for the Homeless. Officials reported more than 3,000 individual bed stays at the Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul and Wayside Christian Mission shelters between October and December of last year, per the release.

Natalie Harris, executive director of the coalition, said White Flag activations during that time broke a five-year record and drained half of the program’s $32,100 budget. Harris expects 2018 will bring more extreme cold, and urged city residents to help fund the program.

“I’m guessing that very few of us thought that there would be that many days in a row that the weather would be so extreme,” Harris said. “It looks very likely that we won’t have enough money to pay the shelters for every night that there’s somebody in White Flag.”

Harris said shelters have housed people regardless of pay before, but said the constraints bring to light the need for the community’s help.

City Chief Resilience Officer Eric Friedlander praised the program last week during a city news conference. He said it’s important that area organizations continue to work together to provide services for people in need.

“We have some fantastic volunteer organizations that go out and provide blankets and hot meals,” Friedlander said last week. “It’s always a danger, and it’s something that we need to continue to work on together.”

If cold temperatures return, Harris advised residents to come inside to escape the cold. She said Louisvillians can support shelters and the White Flag program by donating.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.