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City clears camp, advocates hope promised outdoor space a solution

Outreach workers at Thursday's encampment clearing at 9th and Market Streets said many residents would go to other camps, instead of shelters.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thursday, the city cleared another downtown homeless encampment, as Metro Council's Budget Committee considered an approval of Mayor Greg Fischer's plan for the city's next round of ARP funding. 

The plan includes millions for housing efforts, specifically $1.5 million to outfit the planned Safe Outdoor Space

The Safe Outdoor Space, announced this summer, is still without a director. Director of the Office of Resilience and Community Service Tameka Laird said a decision is coming soon. 

In an email, representatives from the office said a director could be chosen as early as the end of this week. 

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When selected, Laird said that person will play a role in determining the rules for the space, especially around substance use. 

“We're still building out that model," Laird said. "We’ll be working with whoever we identify as the operator to work with them to create that policy and producer and the overall plan of operation.”

"It is considered a low barrier option and we are looking to make sure we can serve everyone at that site and location," she said of the outdoor space.

RELATED: Homeless camps in downtown Louisville set to be cleared

At Thursday's clearing, residents of the camp near I-64, at Ninth Street and Market Street took away their belongings, after being given 72 hours to leave. 

"You think it would be easier for them to give us the time to get our stuff out like we want to instead of coming in here and turning the dirt over and burying it, because we're just going to come dig it up later," a resident named Ray said.

Laird said the tight timeline was because of health and safety concerns at the camp, determined through a risk assessment. She said the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet was also being prevented from conducting an inspection on their property. 

The city estimated there were eight people living in the camp before the clearing. 

Outreach workers like Mary Hampton, from The Healing Place, helped some people settle into shelters. Hampton said others will instead move to new spots. 

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"Any time we have the opportunity to get someone off the street and better their lives, that's a miracle in itself," she said. 

Advocates said substance use is one of the main barriers to getting people help. The desire to have pets can be too. 

Hampton hopes the Safe Outdoor Space will be another option and solution. 

"They don't really want to follow certain rules and guidelines and over there they'll be more open to do things how they want to do them," she said. "The sad unfortunate part is a lot of them are comfortable out here." 

Thursday, the Metro Council's budget committee considered pouring millions into the space, and other efforts. Laird said the best way to end homelessness is to fund resources and support more outreach efforts. 

"That is only one pot of money for one period of time. These services have to continue," she said of the ARP funding. “We know that we have a lot of services in our community, but do we have enough, that’s the key.”

The Safe Outdoor Space is supposed to open in mid-December. Laird anticipates selecting a director for the space soon. 

Any funding plans passed by the Council Budget Committee still needs to be approved by the full Metro Council. 

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