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Louisville requiring risk assessments before homeless encampments can be cleared

Metro Councilmembers are doubling down on ways they believe best keep the homeless population safe.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville's Metro Council is doubling down on ways it believes best keep the homeless population safe.

Councilmembers amended the Homeless Protection Ordinance, adding another step before a homeless encampment can be cleared. The ordinance now officially requires the city do 'risk assessments' prior to issuing a 21-day notice that requires folks to relocate.

"The goal of this is to standardize decision making, as to how we respond to camps," District 21 Councilwoman Nicole George said. "What we want to minimize is arbitrary decision-making based on those loudest in the community."

The city must first evaluate whether there's a danger to health or safety for those living there, and the public. If the answer is yes, only then can they give out the notice.

"Instead of being rooted in subjectivity," District 4 Councilman Jecorey Arthur said.

Councilwoman George and Councilman Arthur co-sponsored the amendment, which passed on a 22-4 vote Thursday night. Councilwoman George says the city started following this blue print during the summer, but now there's a clear expectation protected by law.

This comes as several homeless camps in downtown Louisville have been cleared in recent weeks, most recently the one at the underpass at Market Street and Roy Wilkins Avenue.

Tiny Herron, who works outreach with The Forgotten Louisville, has seen it all -- working every week to help those without a home get what they need.

"Working with the city when something like this happens, but of course none of us ever want to hear about a camp getting cleared," Herron said. "We're looking at different options than we were looking at a couple years ago."

In a statement, the Office of Resilience and Community Services said they support the move:

"The Office of Resilience and Community Services supports the amendment and has been actively working to ensure that we can meet the amendments set forth by the ordinance. RCS appreciates Metro Council’s collaboration with the creation of the risk assessment.” -- ORCS Director Tameka Laird.

ORCS will have to assess camps within 10 business days of learning of their whereabouts.

Herron, who's done several assessments herself, says she sees potential with this move to address health risks sooner and offer a clearer pipeline to resources.

"It allows more time to network with the rest of the homeless service providers in our city to come up with a plan before the 21-day posting even goes in place," Herron said.

The city says this is part of responding to the overall crisis of homelessness. Another element of that response: the 'Safe Outdoor Space' planned to open at a property in Old Louisville in December.

But ORCS tells WHAS 11 that the program still doesn't have a director, and that it's still working to choose one.

"The selection committee for the Operator of the Safe Outdoor Space is still under deliberation. Be assured they are working diligently but no decision has been made. We will postpone doing interviews on this topic or site visits until we have something firm to announce. We are not certain what that timeframe will be, but assure you we will contact you once a public announcement is planned." -- ORCS Director Tameka Laird.

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