Community Metro Louisville

Louisville Metro Government has its first director of homeless services. Susan Buchino, a professor at the University of Louisville’s Department of Health Promotion and Human Sciences, will oversee the city’s initiatives, programs and operations for unsheltered residents.

“[Homelessness] is a public health issue,” Buchino said. “The linkage there is that the root causes of health are many, but the lack of housing is a huge underlying cause of poor health outcomes.”

The position is part of the Metro Government’s Homeless Services Division, a department created this year.

Buchino has been a city consultant since 2019 — researching issues facing unsheltered residents, evaluating Metro initiatives and programs and informing the city’s strategic plan as it relates to tackling the persistent homelessness crisis. 

“It’s a problem of poverty. It’s a problem of mental health and substance use. So I think that understanding that it’s one that takes a lot of work, a lot of compassion, a lot of time and a lot of resources, and it’s not going to be something that’s solved in a day, is really important,” Buchino said. 

As Homeless Services Director, Buchino will preside over city efforts, including the Homeless Task Force, which is meant to identify and mitigate barriers facing the most vulnerable Louisvillians. She will also communicate with service providers to ensure unsheltered residents’ needs are met and work on ways to address systemic issues like gaps in services and barriers to accessing resources. 

“As long as we don’t have affordable housing as a community then — and that’s inventory and affordable housing — we will consistently have homeless neighbors and neighbors who are unstably housed,” Buchino said. 

She said she aims to reconfigure the city’s approach to transferring unsheltered residents into permanent housing into a more sustainable process. Buchino said that includes coming up with different housing options to fit people’s individual needs.

“Looking at, as we’re building affordable housing: what amenities are we providing? What supports are we providing when people go into housing so they won’t be right back on the street?” Buchino said. 

She’s slated to also oversee the city’s notification and enforcement processes for clearing  homeless encampments. Buchino has already started in the role, and will report to Tamika Laird, who directs Metro’s Office of Resilience and Community Services. 

Yasmine Jumaa is WFPL’s race and equity reporter.