Raise Your Voice for #HousingNotHandcuffs

Louisville Groups Rally for Housing, Not Handcuffs, to End Homelessness
During the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, Louisville groups gathered to call for local solutions to homelessness

On Monday, April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Johnson v. Grants Pass to decide whether it’s cruel and unusual punishment to penalize people for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go. But we already know the truth: it is cruel—and ineffective—to criminalize homelessness, especially when shelters are full and there is not enough housing.

In front of the Mazzoli Federal Building in Louisville, the Coalition for the Homeless, VOCAL-KY, the ACLU of Kentucky, Black Lives Matter Louisville, and others gathered with speakers and 200 members of the public to call for an end to homelessness through housing, not handcuffs.

“We have set up 25 tents here in this park. But on any given night, when our emergency shelters are full, there are 595 Louisvillians with nowhere to sleep but outdoors,” said Natalie Harris, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “Can you imagine 24 times as many tents as you can see here? Criminalization does not solve their problem.”

The emcee for the event was Stephanie Johnson, organizer with VOCAL-KY. Speakers included Louisvillians directly impacted by homelessness as well as federal, state, and local leaders:

  1. Lexa Harley, Coalition for the Homeless Community Consulting Board
  2. Michael Abate, Counsel of Record on a Johnson v Grants Pass amicus brief
  3. Rep. Morgan McGarvey, U.S. House of Representatives
  4. Dr. Eric French, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
  5. Angie Johnson and Enzo Intelligence, Black Lives Matter
  6. Rep. Nima Kulkarni, Kentucky House of Representatives 
  7. Markus Young, Sr., VOCAL-KY member
  8. Charles Booker, Former Kentucky House of Representatives
  9. Councilmember Jecorey Arthur, Louisville councilmember

Louisville’s rally was one of four across the state of Kentucky on this historic day of Supreme Court arguments. Speakers across the country emphasized that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, it is cruel—and ineffective—to criminalize homelessness, especially when shelters are full and there is not enough housing, as is the case in Louisville. 

Louisvillians were invited to push for local solutions by signing the petition at louhomeless.org/housing-not-handcuffs:

1. Support the Metro Council ordinance (O-063-24) to mandate that dollars for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund be dedicated at 30% and 50% AMI to meet the greatest need (people facing homelessness);

2. Support a new ordinance regarding right to shelter, including simplifying the process for opening new shelters so we can create new spaces to meet the need; creating a moratorium on clearing camps without offering shelter and services, especially during extreme weather; and leveraging all of our resources to meet the immediate needs of people in a homelessness crisis, including within city-funded hotels or apartments. 

3. Fund real, local solutions to end homelessness in each budget cycle, including at least $25 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for people at 30% AMI in this year’s budget.

All tents were donated to outreach workers following the event. See photos of the event here (courtesy of Taylor Killough, ACLU-KY); see the livestream here.