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'This is about equity' | Louisville nonprofit chosen to operate safe outdoor space for homeless community

Preparations for the site are expected to begin in late January and organizers are currently working on ordering necessary items.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A place where those without a home can find temporary solace in Louisville is one step closer to becoming a reality. On Tuesday, the Louisville Metro Government's Office of Resilience and Community Services announced that The Hope Buss, founded by Rev. Stachelle Bussey, will help oversee the new Safe Outdoor Space in Old Louisville.

“This is about equity and I believe it’s the beginning of our city making equitable decisions," Bussey said. 

“Our community needs that consistent touch to build a rapport and this organization has already done that," Office of Resilience and Community Service Director Tameka Laird said of the choice. 

The new space, called The Hope Village, will be equipped with tents, food, portable facilities, water and electricity access for Louisville residents experiencing homelessness, according to a press release. Residents of the space on E. College St. will be able to get connected with community partners to find additional services like housing, substance abuse counseling and mental health services.

Leaders said people will not be turned away for drug or alcohol use, but use on the property won't be allowed. 

“We are not telling people they can’t ever use again because we know that never works," Angel Todd with Hope Buss said. "What we will do is surround people with education and opportunities to learn more about addiction.”  

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Bussey said she was initially skeptical about the safe outdoor space project, and RCS's ongoing encampment clearings. Instead of rejecting the idea, she decided to lean in. 

“There is really not a solution for everybody that is unhoused, what this is is a place where you can come for some stability," Bussey said. 

Laird said encampment clearings have been on hold because of the weather. She said RCS is continuing to evaluate and assess camps, and that the safe outdoor space would be a potential space for houseless residents to move to. 

After identifying a site for the space in Aug. 2021, the city worked to get proposals for non-profit organizations to choose an operator for the project. City officials said the applications were reviewed by a panel of "subject matter experts and stakeholders to determine the best fit." 

Tuesday, they said selecting the operator was the reason for the delay in rolling out the project. It was initially supposed to launch late last year. 

“The Hope Village is not a permanent solution, but it is a bridge toward more sustainable solutions around our housing crisis,” said Rev. Stachelle D. Bussey, Founder and Executive Director of The Hope Buss. “Our promise remains – to engage and empower the community and encourage our Village residents by offering equitable options."

Bussey said the motto for The Hope Village is: Everyone Deserves Community.

“We want to tell the story of the other and make Louisville the compassionate city we say it always has been," Todd said. 

Preparations for the site are expected to begin in late January and organizers are currently working on ordering necessary items like tents, portable toilets and showers. Organizers said the anticipated opening date for The Hope Village is March 1, barring external circumstances like inclement weather and logistics.

A proposed layout for the site can be seen below.

Organizations that work closely with Louisville's homeless population are encouraged to identify individuals who may benefit from The Hope Village and refer them to The Hope Buss.

In addition to this project, the city of Louisville is also working on renovating a former administrative building on the same site to turn it into bridge housing for people moving through the housing process.

A public meeting to answer questions about The Hope Village will be held virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. Businesses and neighbors in the area of the Hope Village are invited to attend and hear from Councilman Jecorey Arthur (District 4) and The Hope Buss. Registration for the meeting is available here.

The Hope Village is one of many initiatives made possible by funding the city received through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Other upcoming projects include providing additional funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, increasing down payment assistance and boosting a local home repair program to help people stay in their homes.

Contact reporter Grace McKenna at gmckenna@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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