Metro Louisville

Louisville Metro will give $32 million in grants to local nonprofits that have plans to build permanent supportive housing. It’s a type of affordable housing that also includes ongoing access to mental health care, job training and other social services.

Mayor Greg Fischer made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning, standing alongside housing advocates and members of Metro Council. The funding will come from an $80 million block of federal COVID-19 relief city officials set aside for housing services last year. Louisville received a total of around $380 million from Congress’s American Rescue Plan Act. That money has been directed to policing, libraries and childcare access. 

Fischer called the spending on permanent supportive housing a moral and economic imperative. 

“When we know where the hungry and the homeless exist, we can help,” he said. “These are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We’ve got to be there to help.”

The five area nonprofits receiving the funding are the St. John Center, Volunteers of America, Wellspring, House of Ruth and Choices, Inc. All of these organizations have experience providing housing and social services. Fischer said the city is in the process of finalizing the grants now.

Rashan Martin, executive director of the St. John Center, said the organization is working with the private company LDG Development to create Sheehan Landing, an 80-unit housing complex for people who have experienced homelessness. 

Martin said the development will be staffed around the clock with community health workers that can help residents in crisis. 

“This model of housing has been very successful in other states, in other cities, and it will be the first of its kind here in Louisville,” she said. “For the first time, we will be creating permanent supportive housing at a scale that will begin to address the need.”

According to a 2019 report commissioned by the city, Louisville needs 31,000 housing units to meet the needs of its lowest-income residents.

Martin said the St. John Center has not signed a contract on a property yet, but hopes to break ground on Sheehan Landing in early 2023. 

Volunteers of America will build its permanent supportive housing development, dubbed Monarch Station, on Bland Street near Shelby Park. It will be right next to the nonprofit’s existing Shelby campus where they provide substance abuse treatment and mental health services, said Tamara Reif, associate VP of housing services at Volunteers of America.

“VOA will be bringing more high-quality, safe affordable housing to a changing neighborhood that desperately needs to maintain options for Louisville families,” she said. “We think Monarch Station can be a game changing example of how to service Louisville families.”

Volunteers of America will work with Beargrass Development to build a total of 80 housing units. Sixty units will be affordable rental housing, while the other 20 will be supportive housing for people who need ongoing access to social services. Reif did not provide a timeline for the development.

“The location is on a bus line that provides convenient transportation,” she said. “It’s close to healthcare options, schools, parks and other amenities. Building more affordable housing to serve this neighborhood fits Louisville’s long-term housing goals and is simply the right thing to do.”

Advocates of permanent supportive housing say the wraparound services provided to residents address some of the root causes of homelessness and poverty. It also provides housing options that can realistically support people who require ongoing assistance and for whom regular affordable housing may be inadequate.

Of the $380 million the city has received from the American Rescue Plan Act, about $58 million remains unallocated. Louisville Metro has until the end of next year to spend that. The city’s final appropriation of federal COVID-19 relief is expected to focus on workforce and economic development. 

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.