New 'No Trespassing' signs leave homeless nowhere to go

New 'No Trespassing' signs leave homeless nowhere to go
(Photo source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Monday is another day that John Johnson tries to convince Wayside Christian Mission to let him in.

"I've been barred out since 2015 for fighting," Johnson explained. "For something I had done three years ago and I haven't caused trouble here since."

Johnson said he has stayed in a tent for years after serving 26 years in jail. He recently had a tent set up near O'Sheas until he got kicked out by law enforcement.

"When it came time for Derby or Thunder, all of a sudden two cops show up and they tell us we've got to get out or we're going to get arrested for trespassing," Johnson said.

The words "No Trespassing" have always been spray painted on the pillars under the overpasses in downtown Louisville. However, recently, the Louisville Metro Police Department put up paper signs to let folks know their intent to "sweep" the areas where people have set up tents.

The gated area under the highway next to the Louisville Extreme Park is one area where the posters have been put up. The sign said Public Works intends to come by and clean the area on or after Tuesday, May 1. It also has phone numbers for homeless resource centers.

Although it doesn't explicitly say it, a notice to vacate is often taken as temporary, according to Robert Farris. Farris currently stays at Wayside Christian Mission. He said people hide for a while and come back because the problems of homelessness are far from temporary.

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"They want to clean it up and give them a notification and let them know they're going to move their stuff," Farris said. "But then when Derby is over then they go back to the same wall with the no trespassing sign."

On the other side of the issue, the mission isn't easily accomplished either.

"It's not easy, we work with men and women who have lived that lifestyle for years," Executive Director of Louisville Rescue Mission Cory Bledsoe said. "Not only that, there's an internal battle that happens where there's a self-esteem issue."

Johnson added that many people who are camping in tents often dislike heading to shelters because they dislike the authority that runs the shelters. Although he is actually seeking a place to stay, he did say many choose the outdoors because they do not want to commit.

Johnson just has days before May 1 to find a place to go. He said he will keep trying to get into Wayside -- it's all he's got. Otherwise, he said he really doesn't know where to go.

"I just gotta go hide behind a bush or something," he said. "I don't know."

Correction: WAVE 3 News originally reported that Johnson was banned from entering Wayside Christian Mission back in 2015. A Wayside spokesperson clarified that Johnson had actually been banned Dec. 19, 2017, for hitting a security guard in the face in the dining room. Wayside advised that Johnson was taken into custody by police and eventually pleaded guilty to assault in the 4th degree. 

Wayside added that Johnson has a no-contact order with the Wayside premises as well. With the order, Johnson is not allowed inside the property.

Wayside has been serving the homeless community in Louisville since 1957. The spokesperson said the mission takes pride in its efforts to help the homeless population overcome their situation and to become self-sufficient again. They said they also put the safety of their clients first, including the women and children who are in the facility. 

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