LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After a day of intensive homeless outreach, Louisville cleared an 8-block radius of homeless camps under the I-65 overpass downtown last Wednesday.
The sidewalks beneath the overpass at E. Jefferson Street and S. Preston Street seemed almost impossible to walk or bike through due to a row of tents, couches and mattresses lining both sides of the streets.
"It really brings back memories," said Mary Ann Massen sitting in her wheelchair with her back against a column. She is back in the spot she left several months ago, but this time with her eyes peeled to cars driving by.
The 67-year-old woman says she fears for her life.
"I don’t feel safe here," said Massen. "I got into it with a guy who was messing with me and feeling on his genitalia."
It is these stories that are driving The Healing Place to provide a safer alternative to people living on the streets.
The nonprofit known for addiction recovery launched a new pilot program to help provide shelter for 12 people for up to a year. Leader say it takes work to get people like Masen to agree to come inside.
"We have to come in and we have to introduce ourselves, and we have to get to know each other on a one-on-one basis, really, before we get past any other point, because they’ve spent their whole life not trusting anybody," said James Wright, a Peer Support Specialist for the Homeless Outreach Program.
"We let them know that this not a drug and alcohol program," Wright added. "This is a program specifically for the homeless so we can work with you and the overall goal is to get them in a house."
Louisville is coming to grips with its homeless problem that is bounced from block to block as the city continues to clear camps, and people like Masen set up on a different street corner.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, roughly 150 people sleep on the streets each night, and more than a thousand are unhoused -– meaning they sleep in cars and couches with no permanent place to call home.
"I lost so much weight I had to have a blood transfusion," Massen said.
Recently city leaders announced a four-phase plan to transition unsheltered from streets to sustainable housing.
The plan includes engaging more partners like The Healing Place, to help create more ways for people like Massen to get off the corner of Jefferson and Preston.
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