Coalition_for_the_Homeless_logo_-_two_color_version_1The Coalition for the Homeless announced Monday that the number of homeless individuals in Louisville significantly decreased again over the past year, but large cuts in federal funding for local organizations serving this population is expected to jeopardize the city’s success in reducing this population over the past four years.

The coalition’s annual census found 6,737 unduplicated homeless people served in Jefferson County in 2015, amounting to a 12.4 percent decrease of nearly 1,000 individuals from the previous year. Since 2012, the city has witnessed a 23 percent decrease in this population.

The 2015 census found that the population of homeless veterans and unaccompanied children witnessed the most significant decreases over the past year, though the number of homeless who were victims of domestic violence increased by 19 percent to over 1,000. More than 1,200 homeless individuals exited emergency shelters to gain permanent housing in 2015, which is 20 percent of the entire homeless population.

The 2016 point-in-time count of individuals in emergency shelters or sleeping on the street — which was conducted by a record 300 volunteers in January — found 1,004 homeless people, which was a 24 percent decrease from the count in 2015.

Catherine McGeeney, director of development for the Coalition for the Homeless, tells Insider Louisville that their success in recent years is due to their partner organizations collaborating to share information and dedicate resources to help the neediest of this population. However, she says the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to not renew over $1 million in funding for local organizations to provide services and transitional housing for families is going to make such success harder to maintain in the near future.

“It’s great news that the homeless count dropped as much as it did this year — just like each of the past four years — but unfortunately the nearly $1.2 million in funding cuts will affect at least 1,000 homeless people in the first year alone,” says McGeeney. “Not only that, the people who are now moving out of emergency shelters relatively quickly will have a harder time doing so because they won’t have the services people there to help, so it will also displace countless other people who don’t have a spot in an emergency shelter because people are taking so long to get through the system.”

In the coalition’s press release on Monday, executive director Natalie Harris further noted that despite the recent success of their partners, “the only way to truly end homelessness is (to) begin to address the community’s need for an additional 65,000 affordable housing units, especially for Louisville families experiencing homelessness.”

While city leaders promised a decade ago to devote $10 million in dedicated annual funding to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund to meet such a need, a proposal to steer revenue toward it from a 1 percent increase in the insurance premium tax has gone nowhere in Metro Council. However, McGeeney is hopeful that Mayor Greg Fischer’s upcoming budget will devote a $5 million one-time payment to the fund, coming off their $12 million payment toward the Louisville CARES initiative in last year’s budget.

“The new (LAHTF) approach that a majority of council members are in favor of is for the mayor to dedicate $5 million in this first year,” says McGeeney, “and we believe the mayor with his focus on compassionate leadership will move forward on this.”

According to Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT), the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund has only received $1.5 million from the city to fund 40 homes since 2008, while Lexington’s new Affordable Housing Fund has funded 433 homes just in the past 18 months.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]