Now that cold weather has made an appearance in Louisville, city organizations have turned their eyes on protecting people who are homeless from the frigid temperatures.
Operation White Flag is a program that provides shelter for anyone when temperatures drop below 35 degrees at night. Three local shelters — Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul (for men only) and Wayside Christian Mission — will open their doors those nights, regardless of whether or not they have sufficient beds.
“Even without a bed for each person, through Operation White Flag, all people can get a warm, safe place to stay indoors to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. We encourage all homeless people to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, in a news release.
The Coalition coordinates more than 30 nonprofit agencies that provide services to the homeless population.
Harris was unavailable for comment, but Coalition for the Homeless Director of Development Melissa Kratzer told Insider that Friday was the third night that Operation White Flag was in effect this season, and that somewhere between 60 to 70 people had taken advantage of the program on those nights.
“But as of our street count in January, we know there were still 151 people sleeping on the streets on an Operation White Flag night,” she said.
Kratzer said she hadn’t heard of an uptick in shelter use due to the recent breaking up of several longstanding homeless camps, and she, in fact, had heard that several people who lived in those camps are now in permanent housing.
There is still a shortage of shelter beds in Louisville. The Coalition has had to turn away more than 1,680 people in the last two months, and there are currently 50 families on the program’s waiting list.
Funding for the program is provided by Metro Government, but it does not cover the costs. A donation of just $35 will provide a warm place for one homeless person to stay for one week during the coldest weather. Donations can be made at the Coalition’s website.