Louisville to clean out homeless camps near downtown

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The Office of Homlessness Prevention and Intervention

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Louisville Metro Government posted a 21-day notice Tuesday of plans to relocate residents in homeless encampments in a six- to eight-block radius downtown, bounded by Jackson, Jefferson, Market, Preston, Floyd and Brook Streets, as well as Liberty, Hancock and Main Streets.

The city’s Office of Resilience and Community Services also joined with representatives from The Healing Place, Seven Counties Services and Wellspring to announce an expanded outreach strategy to assist people living in that area, particularly those with behavioral health and substance abuse conditions.

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The expanded, collaborative effort includes additional recovery bed capacity at The Healing Place, along with expanded shelter bed capacity at Wayside Christian Mission.  Seven Counties and The Healing Place will provide transportation and help with other logistics.

The goal is to help individuals who are living in unsafe and unhealthy situations on the streets transition into more stable shelter and link them with services that can facilitate a path to permanent housing.  The 21-day notice aims to give those who are unsheltered an opportunity to work with community partners for relocation options, housing solutions, and other supportive services.

In preparation for this posting, which affects the largest concentration of people experiencing street homelessness in the city, Metro staffers have been working with outreach partners to ensure comprehensive services are offered.

And over the next three weeks, a newly expanded outreach team will conduct concentrated engagement with these residents to connect them to available services in the community – working into the evenings and on weekends as well.

These services include primary care and behavioral health services, connections to shelter and housing, recovery, and mental health services.

This work is in addition to the ongoing outreach provided by volunteer groups that provide food, supplies, transportation, and connections to social services such as healthcare and assistance with obtaining IDs.

There are many factors that lead to homelessness, including poverty, unemployment and lack of affordable housing.  These risk factors can be exacerbated by personal vulnerabilities such as behavioral health and substance abuse disorders, domestic violence, justice-system involvement,  and disabilities.

Louisville Metro is focused on a person-centered approach to meet people where they are and recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Increased outreach programs are meant to support and assess individuals and create matches to services and be ready to get them to support and services when they are ready.

“Each person experiencing homelessness has their own unique set of circumstances, but addiction and mental health conditions are common contributors to chronic homelessness, requiring a distinct response to meet their particular needs,” said Tameka Laird, director of Louisville Metro Office of Resilience and Community Services.  “Louisville Metro Government, along with our numerous partners, are continually working on innovative approaches to build capacity in our outreach network, and to better address gaps and barriers.”

Summary of expanded outreach services:

  • Two peer supports with Seven Counties providing substance abuse help
    • Peer support teams will be able to respond within an hour
    • Connect with lived experience to help connect them to services
    • Clients will be assessed for mental health or substance abuse
  • Partnership with The Healing Place to launch a pilot program that has four peer support workers and a case manager connected to 12 beds at their location (flexed between men and women as needed)
  • Wellspring continues to be a part of the city’s Unsheltered Homeless Initiative model with the Assertive Care Treatment (ACT) team providing additional peer supports for mental health
  • Transportation offered by Seven Counties and The Healing Place to take people immediately to services

“We know that the homeless residents of our city broadly experience a range of mental illness, including substance use disorder. In fact, addiction remains one of the root causes of why this very vulnerable population is experiencing homelessness, and the effects of the pandemic have exacerbated this over the last 18 months,” said Marty Purdy, Vice President of Addiction Services, Seven Counties Services. “As a regional provider of comprehensive addiction services that provides trauma-informed care, Seven Counties Services is in a unique position to connect with these citizens through peer support specialists, help get them stabilize, and then get them to the treatment they need. Helping these individuals on a journey to recovery will play a large role in them achieving long-term, permanent housing.”

“The Healing Place is excited to partner with Louisville Metro to launch a pilot program aimed at reducing the number and recidivism of houseless individuals in our community,” said Courtney Weisshaupt, Detox Manager for The Healing Place. “Our low demand program will utilize peer support and case management services to assist in engaging, stabilizing, establishing goals, and developing plans to meet the individual’s needs.”

“Wellspring Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team responds to the needs of our homeless community members who are suffering from acute symptoms of mental illness and often co-occurring substance use,” said “Kathy Dobbins, Chief Executive Officer for Wellspring.  “Our goal is to engage with these often underserved homeless adults, connect them to available resources, help them get permanent affordable housing, introduce them to our psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse, and assist them in moving towards their recovery goals. Wellspring’s ACT team is multidisciplinary with social workers, case managers, peers, therapists, a nurse, and doctors. The team also refers to the Wellspring psychiatric crisis units and other Wellspring services, as appropriate and in accordance with client choice. We work closely with our peer agencies, endeavoring to identify the necessary services and wrap those services around our homeless neighbors in need taking a housing first approach”.

Today’s update complements the city’s four-phase plan announced late July which aims to address chronic street homelessness through immediate, intermediate and long-term solutions. Read full plan here and see summary below:

  • A pilot initiative to establish and manage an area that would provide a Safe Outdoor Space, including supportive wrap-around services designed to help people experiencing homelessness to find more sustainable housing.
  • A transitional housing effort, potentially in a hotel/motel setting, offering a quick transition to indoor housing within a safe, supportive, and client-centered environment.
  • More permanent supportive housing options, developed in partnership with service providers.
  • Increased funding for affordable housing.

In addition, homelessness and affordable housing were identified as the top priorities for spending the city’s remaining share of federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding.

During the height of the COVID pandemic, the city observed shelter-in-place guidelines – cleaning but not clearing of homeless encampments, in order to mitigate the spread of the virus and to help facilitate the distribution of vaccines. Since then, conditions at several camps have deteriorated, creating health and safety concerns.

The city’s Office of Resilience and Community Services recently completed a risk assessment of the encampments downtown, per an MOU with the State of Kentucky, noting significant public health and public safety challenges.

For more information about homeless services, how to help, and the city’s new Homeless Services Division. https://louisvilleky.gov/government/homeless-services-division.