Homeless encampment task force nears one year

Homeless encampment task force to decide how to use $500k from Metro Council

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Nearly one year after a homeless encampment task force was created by Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Council approved $546,000 to go towards homeless relief efforts.

Over the next few weeks, the task force will be looking at how to spend the money.

Eric Friedlander is one of the leaders of the task force, which works to bring street outreach organizations and community services together.

He said it was started after a group was cleared out of an encampment without enough warning.

“There was a great deal of discussion about we need to do better. So the task force came from there,” Friedlander said.

Friedlander said they have had 25 to 40 people in each of their task force meetings over the last year.

“It’s been a really good exchange of ideas,” he said. “I think you can see in other places where folks feel like the communication is better and that’s really no small feat.”

Friedlander said since the start of the task force, the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless and other street outreach groups now meet every month or month and a half to discuss who is the most vulnerable on the street.

“[They discuss] how to get them into services and shelters,” he said. “That collaboration among street outreach and the coalition, community services, but really mainly the street outreach and the folks who are doing case management outreach, they’ve been able to connect people to services they haven’t been able to be connected before.”

He says a big part of the last year with the task force has been improving communication between the groups to ensure everyone is on the same page in reducing the number on the streets.

“I know that sounds like we should do every day but when you have that many departments involved it's important to bring everybody together to have a common understanding,” Friedlander said.

While Friedlander feels like they are making progress, he says he knows there is still a lot that needs to change.

“I think there are more homeless people on the streets than there were a year ago or two years ago. I think that's a nationwide trend,” he said.

He would like to see stronger outreach in the encampments to help people who are living without a shelter because he recognizes it takes time to building trust.

“The street outreach teams, who I will always say are the heroes in this community. They don’t get a dime of government funding but they go out on the streets and really earn the trust of people living on the streets,” Friedlander said.

Funding is a big part of continuing to solve the problem when it comes to housing options and storage options for the homeless community.

The task force determined there is a need for more storage for people to be able to store their things in order to feel comfortable to go into a shelter, which the newly approved half million dollars will go towards.

Friedlander said fixing the problem is a long process.

“We’re working on it. It’s not quick. It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the nation but I think what is good in Louisville is we have so many people who are willing to go out and help.”

Groups within the task force, like the Coalition for the Homeless and other outreach groups are always looking for people to volunteer.

The Coalition for the Homeless will conduct a street count on January 31 from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. Click here for more information.

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