Louisville will build 'permanent supportive housing' with ARP funds

As a large "hometown hero" banner of author Sue Grafton smiles down from the side a Marriott hotel, workers clear out the remaining tents from a homeless camp along Jefferson Street Friday morning. The city of Louisville was clearing out the area two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and a week before Thunder Over Louisville. April 15, 2022
As a large "hometown hero" banner of author Sue Grafton smiles down from the side a Marriott hotel, workers clear out the remaining tents from a homeless camp along Jefferson Street Friday morning. The city of Louisville was clearing out the area two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and a week before Thunder Over Louisville. April 15, 2022

Louisville is using $32 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to build additional "permanent supportive housing," with officials announcing several projects Wednesday to provide shelter and resources to homeless men and families.

The money will help nonprofit organizations like the St. John Center and Volunteers of America Mid-States build supportive housing units to offer a permanent place to call home to those who struggle with chronic homelessness.

"It's a moral imperative that we do this. It's also an economic imperative," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said while flanked by over a dozen housing advocates and officials during a news conference at Metro Hall. "These are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We've got to be there to help."

Louisville received $388 million to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law in March 2021. The city has about $58 million in ARP money left to spend, with officials indicating they expect it to focus on workforce development.

The ARP funds must be directed to different areas by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, per federal rules.

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"There's abundant and growing evidence that communities with affordable housing shortages have more houseless neighbors," Metro Councilman Bill Hollander said, alluding to Louisville's estimated 31,000-unit shortage of affordable housing. "We also know that many people who are living on the street need more than just a key to an apartment to get back on their feet, and they may need that help for an extended period of time."

Metro Councilman Jecorey Arthur thanked the various nonprofit leaders and advocates who help residents experiencing homelessness, also giving a nod to outreach workers.

"Where you feel the most safe? In your home," Arthur said. "But if you don't have a place to call home, a permanent place to call home, a sustainable place to call home, a consistent place to call home, you're the least safe person in the city of Louisville."

The mayor and Metro Council directed the city's previous four rounds of ARP allocations to COVID-related needs, affordable housing, premium pay for city employees, violence prevention programs, reopening several library branches, renovating parks and supporting youth development, among other areas.

Last fall, officials directed about $89 million toward affordable housing and homelessness programs, including a "safe outdoor space" on College Street, the creation of more rental units with resources like counseling and substance abuse support, down-payment assistance, home-repair initiatives and a boost to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Much work remains to curb the estimated shortage of 31,000 units needed to be affordable for those who make 30% of the Area Median Income, which a Louisville study said was $25,100 for a family of four in 2018. Fischer said filling that gap could cost $4.5 billion.

Here's a summary of the new plans:

St. John Center and LDG Development to build supportive housing

Ra’Shann Martin, executive director of St. John Center, the day shelter, street outreach and social service provider at 700 E. Muhammad Ali Blvd., said her organization and LDG Development, a Louisville developer, are teaming up to create "Sheehan Landing."

Named after Sister Mary Kathleen Sheehan, the center's founding director, the spot will feature 80 one-bedroom apartments as part of an "affordable, supportive development that will be the first of its kind in Kentucky," Martin said.

Staff will provide wraparound services, such as counseling or recovery resources, and be available 24 hours a day to residents, Martin said. St. John Center is receiving $17.5 million in ARP money, per city officials.

The site has yet to be determined, but Martin said the aim is to break ground by early 2023 and complete the project by 2025.

Volunteers of America hopes 'Monarch Station' will help families

Volunteers of America Mid-States, which is based in Louisville and fights opioid abuse and family and veteran homelessness across Kentucky and Clark and Floyd counties in Southern Indiana, will use $4.5 million to create "Monarch Station" for families experiencing housing crises.

Tamara Reif, senior director of housing services for Volunteers of America, said it is working with Beargrass Development on the project, calling it an "integrative housing model unlike anything that's been done in Louisville before (that) puts into place best practices for providing housing" to families in need.

Monarch Station will be on Bland Street by VOA's existing Shelby campus off Shelby Street in the Shelby Park and Merriwether area, Reif said, adding the land was donated. It will feature 80 affordable units, 20 of which will offer support services to residents.

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Services will include job coaching, case management, housing specialists, substance abuse treatment referrals and counseling, Reif added.

"The location is important," Reif said, noting it is close to a bus line, health care options, schools, parks and other amenities.

Other permanent supportive housing plans in Louisville

Fischer also said this ARP allocation will help three other projects from Louisville nonprofits.

  • Wellspring, which offers mental health recovery, housing and other support services, is using $3.3 million to purchase and remodel units for permanent supportive housing.

  • House of Ruth, which provides housing and support for people with HIV/AIDS and their families, will use $6.5 million for 40 permanent supportive housing units.

  • Choices, Inc., which helps women and families who are homeless, will use $120,000 to build one home featuring support services.

Reach Billy Kobin at bkobin@courierjournal.com

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville to spend $32 million in ARP money on housing for homeless