A homeless encampment under the I-264 overpass on Jefferson Street. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Approximately 325 volunteers walked the streets of Louisville in a sub-zero wind chill early Thursday morning, taking part in the annual homeless street count of the Coalition for the Homeless.

Conducted each January to verify the number of people sleeping outdoors in Louisville, the preliminary results from this year’s count found 118 individuals sleeping outside. This total is a 23 percent decline from the 2018 count, in which 153 people were counted sleeping outside.

In a news release, Executive Director Natalie Harris noted that 161 individuals were counted as sleeping inside the newly created low-barrier homeless shelter at Wayside Christian Mission on East Jefferson, which was made possible by emergency funding appropriated by the Metro Council in December.

“The new low barrier shelter is a tremendous asset,” stated Harris. “The count this morning demonstrates a need for both more shelter space and more options for different types of shelter. It is proof that we can get people off the streets when we have the political will to do so.”

Advocates also counted the number of individuals sleeping in emergency shelters early Thursday morning, with the total one-night count expected to be finalized in the spring. This data will be used by the coalition and city officials to develop strategies on the deployment of resources, in addition to leveraging more than $10 million in annual federal funding for homeless services in Louisville.

This year’s street count was supported by the Centerstone Kentucky street outreach team.

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]