‘No one should have to sleep outdoors.’ Louisville’s 2020 homeless count shows room for improvement

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Preliminary numbers from Thursday’s homeless count in Louisville have been released, and show an increase from last year’s count.

The count, which is coordinated by the Coalition for the Homeless each January, sends hundreds of volunteers out onto the streets of Louisville early in the morning to track how many people are sleeping outdoors on a given night. 139 people were counted this year, compared to 118 in 2019. Both years’ counts still sit lower than the 153 people counted in 2018.

“This number verifies what we already know: as a city, we need more emergency shelter and more affordable housing,” said coalition executive director Natalie Harris. “No one should have to sleep outdoors. These findings will help us design better programs for Louisvillians experiencing homelessness.”

RELATED: Large homeless camp on Lexington Road cleared out

Harris said that temperatures may have been a key factor leading to the increase in this year’s count. Temperatures Thursday sat right around the freezing mark, compared to last year when they were barely above zero degrees. Those dangerous conditions may have encouraged more people staying on the streets to enter emergency shelters.

The Louisville community started several projects last year to try to get at-risk individuals off the streets and into shelters. Metro Council allocated money to fund low-barrier shelters, where individuals would not be turned away if they have a partner or are suffering from an addiction. The city also installed lockers for people experiencing homelessness to keep their belongings in while they stay in shelters and look for permanent housing.

RELATED: Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy drops off blankets for homeless in the Highlands

Even still, there were nights when shelters were at full capacity and had families on waiting lists to get in.

It is important to know that the 139 people counted yesterday include only those sleeping on the streets, not those in shelters or experiencing homelessness in other ways. A comprehensive number is expected to be released this spring.

Contact reporter Rob Harris atrjharris@whas11.com. Follow him onTwitter (@robharristv) andFacebook

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.