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Local News

Forum Gives Louisville’s Homeless Chance to Voice Concerns

The Occupy Louisville movement has spurred the creation of a panel to hear concerns regarding homelessness in the city. A diverse group of organizations, including city officials, will listen to discussion this Friday on the issue.

Those on the panel aren’t quite sure what issues might be brought up, but talks earlier this year with Occupy Louisville demonstrators were enough to request a forum, said Curtis Stauffer with the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, one of the groups on the panel.

“It could be a day to day simple operations thing that could make life easier for consumers and it could be bigger issues related to broader policy questions about how consumers are perceiving their use of the system and ideas to bring it forward,” he said.

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Here and Now

Romney Releases Taxes, Inside The World Of “Travelers,” JCPS Prepares for Updated School Nutrition Standards: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: Under pressure to show voters his tax returns, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential hopeful, today posted returns from several years on his website. Last year, he paid $3 million in federal income taxes last year on nearly $21 million in income from investments and carried interest from the private equity firm, Bain Capital. This income is taxed at 15%, rather than as ordinary income, which can be taxed by as much as 35%. We’ll find out how it could play with voters.

1:12pm: In 2010, eight young people died in a warehouse fire in New Orleans. They were squatters—kids who had left their homes and families to hop on trains like modern day hobos, called travelers. Journalist Danelle Morton explores this lifestyle—one her daughter was attracted to—in The Boston Review. We’ll talk with Morton and her daughter, Marissa Spoer, a musician who dropped out of college to play music as a traveler.

1:35pm: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to update nutrition standards for school lunches tomorrow. The regulations are supposed to reflect the department’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years. But the USDA has not made any changes to school nutrition in over 15 years. As WFPL’s Devin Katayama reports, many school districts have not waited to improve school menus.

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Local News

New Downtown Homeless Initiative Being Considered

The Louisville Downtown Management District is considering an initiative that would help prevent panhandling and homelessness downtown while helping those on the streets find loved-ones to live with.

The idea is similar to a program in Nashville called Homeward Bound that helps transport eligible homeless people to a friend or relative’s home, said Ken Herndon, director of operations with the Louisville Downtown Management District. But in Louisville, the court system would be involved, he said.

The plan would, “basically ask the judges to ask one more question during the process, Is there a place you’d like to be and are there people that can be there when you get there,” Herndon said.

Critics of similar programs have said that homelessness isn’t dealt with, it’s just moved. But that’s not the intent, said Herndon.

“We’re trying to provide an opportunity to provide the people who are on the street who can’t get back to where they’d like to be. And if it also happens to reduce panhandling for us that’s good too, but the point is, if they have a place they want to go and they can’t get there, we want to help them get there,” Herdon said.

The program targets a very specific group and it’s uncertain how large of an effect it would have, said Natalie Harris, executive director of Louisville’s Coalition for the Homeless.

Herndon will travel to Nashville in a couple weeks and meet Tom Turner, president of Nashville Downtown Partnership, which heads Homeward Bound. The program has transported around 350 people the past few years and spends around $150 on average for each transport, said Turner.

Homeward Bound does not involve the courts and Turner said it’s likely that partnership would benefit Louisville’s proposed program.

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Local News

Housing Report Shows Continued Trends, Zoning Issues

The head of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition says institutional changes must be made to stop the spread of homelessness in Louisville. The statement coincides with the coalition’s latest housing report.

This year’s report shows increases in the number of foreclosures, families seeking housing assistance, and homeless children in public schools.

The numbers partially reflect the hard economic times. But coalition director Cathy Hinko says they’re part of a trend that began before the recession.

“We have to look at some other factors, not just this recession, to see why we were having these trends long before this crisis hit,” she says. “And until we do, we’re not going to be really able to change those trends.”

Hinko says one way to stop the increases is to change how residential areas are zoned.

“Seventy-five percent of the land is zoned single family, and of that, the vast majority is zoned R-4, which absolutely precludes affordable housing altogether. So we have to look at the bones, the skeleton,” she says.

Hinko says another way to decrease homeless is to mandate that affordable housing units be built into new housing developments.

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Local News Politics

Planning Commission Approves Homeless Shelter Zoning

The Louisville Planning Commission has approved zoning guidelines for homeless shelters.

The regulations address a gap in zoning laws that neither prohibited nor allowed a shelter to be built downtown. The regulations define zoning for three types of buildings that serve the homeless, and would allow shelters downtown.

The commission heard from more than a dozen people who spoke in favor of the zoning changes. A minority of speakers, however, said there should be regulations that prohibit the size and density of shelters.

Dawn Warrick with Planning and Design Services says existing codes will keep density down, and it’s unlikely her agency will try to pass any legislation that applies only to the homeless…though similar laws exist in other cities.

“Certainly there are probably schemes by which they can do that legally,” she says. “It’s something our task force did not ask us to pursue further because they felt comfortable with the recommendation they had developed.”

The change in zoning laws now goes to the Metro Council and other legislative bodies for final approval. The zoning changes mean Wayside Christian Mission’s proposed homeless shelter at the Hotel Louisville downtown is one step closer to being legal. Wayside has been operating the building as a hotel, offering steep discounts on rooms for the homeless. Director Nina Moseley says while she’s happy with the zoning law changes, the hotel operation has advantages over a shelter.

“Operating the hotel is paying for our utilities which is the big thing for us,” she says. “And the interface with people; people can come in and rent a room in the hotel or have a wedding reception in the hotel and be served by our folks who are homeless.”

Planning and Design Services is currently working on follow-up legislation that would set clear inspection and licensing guidelines for shelters to operate under. Moseley says the drafts of the plan are too strict, and go beyond the fire and health inspections shelters are already subject to.

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State of Affairs

State of the News

It’s Friday, and that means time to wrap up another week with State of the News. This week we’ll talk about the latest in the possible execution of death row inmate Gregory Wilson, whose execution has been postponed for now. We’ll find out what could be next in that case, then check in on Metro and election news. Then we’ll finish out the show with a look at child-related news – including the JCPS assignment plan controversy. Join us for a look back at the stories that made headlines and analysis from the reporters who covered them.

Audio MP3

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Local News

Many Area Homeless Are Veterans, Employed According To Census

by Gabe Bullard

The latest homeless census for Louisville has been released. The study gives new information on the demographics of the area homeless population.

Of the more that nine thousand homeless people counted in Louisville last year, about one-fifth were veterans, one-third could not afford a mortgage or rent and one-fourth were employed, with overlap between each group.

Coalition for the Homeless director Natalie Harris says the census shows that Louisville has generally done better than other cities at helping homeless families, but still lags in some areas.

“We’re a little behind on individual homelessness and chronic homelessness and also serving veterans,” she says. “That’s a new focus of the federal government as well so I think we might get some new supports to help us with that.”

Harris says the coalition is seeking to increase supportive housing over the next few years. Supportive housing typically consists of subsidized rental units with access to individual care for renters.

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Local News

Louisville Bucks National Homeless Trends For 2009

by Gabe Bullard

The Louisville Coalition for the Homeless this week will release the results of the 2009 homeless census.

Coalition director Natalie Harris says the annual count showed that Louisville’s homeless demographics differ from national trends.

“The numbers are actually getting lower throughout the country amongst single individuals, however, in Louisville, that number went up and the number of people in families actually went down here, which is different from what’s happening in the nation,” she says.

Harris attributes the decline in homeless families in Louisville to charities and local government programs that focus on helping families. Louisville homeless population grew by 412 last year. The full details of the census will be released Wednesday

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Local News

Shelters Fly White Flags During Hot Weather

by Gabe Bullard

Six Louisville homeless shelters have relaxed their overnight capacity rules due to the hot and humid weather.

When the heat index reaches or tops 95 degrees, the shelters fly white flags to indicate that the homeless can come in for relief from the heat overnight.

The flags first went up on Saturday and have remained in place since. Coalition for the Homeless director Natalie Harris says there’s no restriction on how many white flag days there can be in a given year, but there is a limit on reimbursements to shelters.

“We basically get $34,000 from the government each year to reimburse the agencies for making those extra spaces available for people, but we get that same amount regardless of how many white flag days and nights there are,” she says.

Harris says shelters will accommodate extra visitors, though some may not have enough beds and some people may have to sleep in chairs or on cots.

White flag days are also declared during extreme cold.

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Local News

Task Force Recommendations Favor Wayside Shelter Downtown

by Gabe Bullard

Wayside Christian Mission may legally be able to operate a homeless shelter in downtown Louisville by the end of the summer.

The Homeless Shelter Task Force was formed to address the gap in zoning laws that neither allowed nor prohibited Wayside’s proposed shelter at 2nd and Broadway. The task force’s final recommendation would allow shelters like Wayside’s in commercial spaces like downtown, and does not set a limit for how many shelters can be in a specific area.

“There are not distance mandates,” says Assistant Director of Planning and Design Services Dawn Warrick. “That was something the task force did discuss: whether or not there should be a requirement for a certain amount of distance to be mandated between various facilities.”

Warrick says the task force does recommend the city establish a licensing standard for shelters.

“We do business licensing for all types of activities within the community at this point in time,” she says. “You operate a restaurant, you have a business licenses, you operate a taxi service you have a business license.”

The task force also suggests that shelters operating in certain zoning areas follow specific quality standards. The recommendations now go to the Planning Commission. If approved, they will be sent to the Metro Council for final approval, which could come as early as July.