LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A white flag shelter in Bullitt County will look different this winter than in previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark 12 Ministries used to set up the cold weather shelter inside the church, however COVID-19 distancing requirements made that impossible. They are now serving the homeless inside two old, army tents on a grassy lot next to Mercy Hill Church.
“I kind of put a stake in the ground and said we’re going to have a shelter because we want to keep people safe,” Mark 12 Ministries Executive Director Perry Cooke said.
Cooke put out a call to the community last October in search of an alternative shelter. The solution came in the form of two donated old, military tents, which could hold up to 10 people each, spread apart 6 feet. Tent number three was acquired recently, which raised the shelter capacity to 30 people.
Other donations paid for food, cold-weather gear, and propane to keep the tents warm. Cooke said a trailer was also donated to serve as an operations center for Mark 12 staff.
“This year so far, we’ve already used 400 man-hours, we’ve been opened also continually since Jan. 11 and we’ve had 10 visitors so far this winter,” he said.
The shelter opens every night when the temperature drops to 35 degrees or below. Visitors can rest from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. This is the only place in Shepherdsville and Bullitt County that gives shelter at night.
Shepherdsville Chief Rick McCubbin said a lack of homeless resources in his community is a concern. He explained officers are often called into situations involving the homeless population over which they have little to no control.
“If they’re there for eight hours of sleep, what do they do for the other 16? And that’s where our problem is coming in,” he said. “Homeless is not something that we can enforce, because there’s nothing illegal about it. We try to get them to where they need to be, and we’d take them to a shelter, but we don’t have that ability here.
To avoid another winter like this one, Cooke said he plans to start fundraisers for a permanent shelter in the spring.
“Bullitt County needs a homeless shelter, year-round, all the time, 24/7,” he said. “We feel that if we can buy that facility, convert it into what we are dreaming about doing, which is consolidating resources in one building, we feel like we can in two generations completely change the face of homelessness in our county,” he said.”
Cooke told WAVE 3 News he needs more donations from the community to make his dream of a shelter a reality. All he needs now is volunteers to last through the winter.
To volunteer with Mark 12 Ministries, click here.