LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Driving on Jefferson Street into downtown Louisville, the sight of the homeless camp can be overwhelming. Piles of old blankets, clothing and garbage line the sidewalks. Inside the camp, there are tents, mattresses, pieces of random clothing and furniture--and trash everywhere.
One man dedicated his day off to help clean up the mess.
Jeff Gill, who does homeless outreach, invited the community to clean up with him on Thursday. No one showed up, but he cleaned anyway--for six hours.
“It was pretty bad,” Gill said. “There were a lot of piles of soiled covers and clothing. They were covered in human waste, vomit and mold from the rain.”
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Gill is known for helping the homeless with food and necessities with an organization he started, Hip Hop Cares. He said he filled 40 trash bags and seven trash bins cleaning up the trash under the overpass.
Gill also took bleach to the streets to make the area more sanitary.
“It keeps the germs and all that down,” Johnny Billups said.
Billups lives on Jefferson Street, saw Gill working, and helped him clean.
Billups sees the city come by every Wednesday morning and pick up trash bins. He said cleanup of the camp is a never-ending job--a job that’s left to residents and volunteers.
“People bring food and stuff like that around here,” Billups said.
For those living under the overpass, there is nowhere to store the donations but on the street.
“I would encourage people to not just drop stuff off on the sidewalk,” Gill said.
Billups said the donations can lead to filth. Though often dropped off by people with good intentions, too many donations can be overwhelming for someone who doesn’t have a home.
The conditions are concerning, but so is a mandatory evacuation from the city.
“If the city goes in and cleans, they are more than likely going to put up a 21-day notice and say that the people have to vacate,” Gill said.
A homeless protection ordinance that went into effect in 2017 requires a 21-day notice to a homeless camp (and to the Coalition for the Homeless) before a homeless person or their property can be displaced.
The city said it has not made any plans for a mandatory evacuation of the camp on Jefferson Street.
Harold Adams with Louisville Metro Department of Public Works said private citizens are more than welcomed to help like Gill did.
Gill, who was modest about his contribution, said he just hopes to inspire others to do their part.
“It wasn’t a whole lot to it,” Gill said. “So, I sacrificed some of my personal time, but bleach doesn’t cost that much.”
Right now the city reports there are about 744 people sleeping outside in Jefferson County.
“Am I naive enough to think it will look like that forever?" Gill said. "Absolutely not. But when the need comes again, hopefully the community can get a little bit more involved and we can get down there and take care of it.”
To connect with a homeless outreach team like Hip Hop Cares and volunteer your time with organizations like Gill’s, click here.