The solution to homelessness: an op-ed by the Coalition and St. John Center

After the tragedy of Kenneth Winfield’s death in Louisville just 11 nights ago, the Executive Directors and Board Chairs of the Coalition for the Homeless and St. John Center wrote this op-ed for the Courier-Journal. It’s a call to action for each of us, inviting us to work together to ensure that not one more person dies on Louisville’s streets.

Click here to read their letter, or see it pasted in full below.

To learn more about how to advocate for a permanent funding stream for the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund, click here.

To learn more about the Coalition and partners’ efforts to end homelessness utilizing a housing first approach, click here to read about Rx: Housing.

Of affordable housing and the homeless

From the Sunday Forum of the Courier-Journal (March 1, 2015)

Many have asked, how could this happen? How could a homeless man die on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, in 2015? How could a neighbor of ours be out on a freezing night rather than an overnight shelter or, better yet, in his own home?

And how can we prevent this from ever happening again?

When Kenneth Winfield died on Thursday night, Feb. 18, 2015, he was on his way to the tucked-away tent where he stayed. But he sat down before he got there. Tragically, he succumbed to death.

With the temperature dipping to less than 10 degrees below zero that night, the community’s emergency response efforts were in place. Outreach teams were out in force; Seven Counties Services, The Healing Place and Wayside Christian Mission were out looking for people just like Kenneth. The mayor had issued a warning and city police were watching to ensure that everyone was safe. Overnight shelters St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army and Wayside had also opened their doors and were exceeding their normal capacities because of the extreme weather conditions. This program is called White Flag, and it was designed for people like Kenneth. So while several thoughtful emergency response efforts were in place, Kenneth still slipped through the safety net.

Some people are calling for more shelter. But the truth is that shelters should just be part of an emergency response system; they are critical and they save lives, but they are not a long-term solution to homelessness.

So what is the long-term solution?


Kenneth knew that. When he asked the staff at St. John Center (a daytime shelter and social services resource) for help to find housing, he knew that a place of his own was both an emergency response and a permanent solution. He didn’t ask for help finding a shelter bed — he asked for help finding an apartment.

There are two types of housing that Louisville’s 8,600 homeless people need: affordable housing and supportive housing.

Like anything, the solutions vary based on the needs; families need a different solution than veterans suffering from PTSD. What is indisputable, though, is that while Louisville has made great strides in the availability of supportive housing (the kind of housing Kenneth qualified for), Kenneth’s death is painful proof that we do not have enough. We are woefully short on affordable housing options, too.

Supportive housing provides housing and the support of a case manager so that homeless people can maintain their housing and meet personal goals.

Eleven different homeless services agencies work together, coordinated by the Coalition for the Homeless, to find supportive housing for homeless Louisvillians. Over the past 10 months, 146 formerly homeless individuals and 52 formerly homeless families have been moved into supportive housing. This is tremendous progress. However, on Jan. 29, we counted about 1,160 people who were either living on the streets or in shelter. Clearly, the need is great.

Not all homeless individuals and families need supportive housing. Others simply need housing they can afford, but because they work low-wage jobs, or struggle to piece together a series of temporary jobs, stable housing remains out of reach. In Louisville, you’d have to work 74 hours per week at the minimum wage to afford the average apartment: 58 percent of Louisville’s homeless adults work and still cannot make ends meet.

The disparity between the need for housing and the available housing options is vast. Unfortunately, the past three decades have brought stagnated wages for all but those with the highest incomes, while federal housing subsidies have been cut from over $83 billion per year to just $45 billion per year.

So what solutions do we recommend?

First, a permanent funding source for the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund is desperately needed on the local level to fund affordable housing options. Please contact your Metro Council members about the critical importance of funding this initiative.

This isn’t enough, though. We also need additional support for permanent housing subsidies at the federal level.

How could this happen? How could a homeless man die on the streets in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2015? And what can we do so this will never happen again?

Please tell your council members, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and our federal senators that we wish to work together to ensure that no one else should die on the streets of Louisville by supporting the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund, by increasing the federal Section 8 budget, and by implementing programs and policies that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

For more information and ideas, please see

Thank you for asking the questions. Now is the time to act — now, before another person dies on our streets.


Executive Director –

Coalition for the Homeless –


Executive Director –

St. John Center for Homeless Men –


Chair, Board of Directors –

Coalition for the Homeless –


Chair, Board of Directors –

St. John Center for Homeless Men –