LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – As temperatures drop back into the 20s, homeless shelters across Louisville are starting Operation White Flag. Anytime the wind chill gets below 35 degrees, shelters open up their doors to allow everyone in. John Ritchie is homeless, but Sunday night he found a bed at St. Vincent de Paul. “When it gets down cold enough, it could be life or death,” Ritchie said.
“It’s important because it saves lives,” Linda Romine, St. Vincent de Paul’s communications director, said. “White Flag was instituted by theCoalition for the Homeless to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the streets and freezing to death.”
About 30 shelters across the city take part in the program. St. Vincent de Paul brings in an extra 40 mattresses for such nights.
“They come in, they want a warm bed; a warm place to sleep,” Romine said. “They’ve been out in the cold for a long time.”
The Louisville Homeless Coalition says there are more homeless people than shelter beds, meaning many times shelters have to turn people away when White Flag isn’t in effect.
“We’ve made some great strides in reducing homelessness but there are still too many people on the street,” Romine said.
The shelter says a new system of people calling ahead to reserve a bed has helped. That way the coalition can tell homeless people which shelters still have mattresses and which ones don’t.
“We are doing a better job, I think, in coordinating with other shelters to try to systematically approach the problem of homelessness,” Romine said.
“If it wasn’t for these places, there’d be a lot more death, people freezing to death or breaking in, sleeping in abandoned buildings,” Ritchie said. “I’m grateful for a place like this.”