In Conversation

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Louisville is looking for ways to further help its homeless population, funneling more than $500,000 into low-barrier shelters, item storage and other services.  Metro Government also commissioned a five-month study to find solutions. Yet the city continues to clear out homeless camps, citing health and public safety risks, forcing people in the camps to seek shelter somewhere else. We talked with advocates and others about homelessness, and what’s being done about it, as part of WFPL’s In Conversation.

Our guests included:

  • Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Natalie Harris
  • Metro Government Chief Resilience Officer Eric Friedlander
  • Wayside Christian Mission CEO Nina Moseley
  • Wayside Christian Mission Client Aaron Jones

Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Natalie Harris said many people are homeless because poverty and other circumstances led them there. She said Louisville needs more shelters and services to help those homeless residents find a home.

“If you don’t have the financial means to address those issues — that’s where you end up on the streets,” Harris said. “About 80 percent of the people, and actually now the number is a little higher of our homeless population, are poor families who live right on the edge.”

Some people on the streets don’t go into shelters because some of them have strict rules, often involving pets and couples without children. Low-barrier shelters were funded as a way to get around that. Though it needed changes to address violence and drug trafficking, Wayside Christian Mission CEO Nina Moseley said the low-barrier shelter at her facility has been successful.

 “That [low-barrier shelter] has been quite an experiment. Since the time we opened until June 30, we’ve provided 19,607 nights of lodging to a total of nearly 800 different people through that shelter,” Moseley said. “It’s been a very impactful experiment as well as learning a lot to go forward in helping folks.”

Though the city put $500,000 towards that shelter and storage units, budget cuts could affect future efforts against homelessness. Metro Government Chief Resilience Officer Eric Friedlander said federal funding has helped, but Louisville needs more support.

“We [The United States] don’t view housing as a right and we don’t invest in affordable housing,” Friedlander said. “We have thousands and thousands of units that are necessary to be able to address what is really an affordable housing crisis in Louisville and also an eviction crisis in Louisville”

Aaron Jones lives at Wayside Christian Mission and is using programs offered there to transition out of homelessness. Jones said people who want to help should just ask a homeless person what they need.

“Listen to what the person’s needs are, and then try to assess it from there,” Jones said. “If I can help, I can help. If I can’t help, I’ll refer them to someone that has more professional advice than I do.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about the Sherman Minton Renewal Project.

There’s a lot going on in Louisville, and WFPL’s “In Conversation” with Rick Howlett gives people a platform to talk — both to each other, and with the larger community — about the biggest issues facing our city, state and region. Live at 11 a.m. every Friday on 89.3 WFPL. Call 502-814-TALK to join the conversation.

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