LOUISVILLE, KY — Nestled on the property of a former church in carefully arranged rows is a tent encampment that personifies its name. It's called Hope Village.
“There was a guy that said to us, ‘This is the most human I ever felt in my life,” said Rev. Stachelle Bussey, who is the driving force behind Hope Village.
It's more than a collection of tents; it is designed to be a stepping stone for people who are homeless.
“They come here and they're offered case management, they're offered food, they're offered health, dental, all those things you could think of,” Rev. Bussey said. “And so, we just take those individuals who are chronically homeless and put them in here and really help them transition to housing.”
It’s a partnership between the nonprofit and the city of Louisville, Kentucky, born out of the social justice movement that sprung up there after the police killing of Breona Taylor in 2020.
“Our city had to take a step back and look at a lot of the issues right around justice, equity,” Rev. Bussey said. “We were like, ‘What are some innovative solutions and what are some ways we can really we can consistently, you know, serve our houseless population besides taking them food?’”
So, after looking at options, the city set aside just over a million dollars to establish hope village, which opened this past spring.
Bruce Sweeney makes sure things run smoothly around the village.
“Nobody's allowed to come near this fence, pass anything over the fence or anything for their safety and ours,” Sweeney said.
Right now, 53 people live there.
Mike McGrath is about to become the 54th person.
“I'm shocked how pleasant everyone is so far,” he said.
McGrath is getting medically cleared by onsite physicians before he and his pet dog head to their tent.
“Just a little help to stay out of the weather this winter and get back to working during the summer,” said McGrath, who had lived on the streets for several years.
Since it opened this past April, 17 people have transitioned out of Hope Village and into permanent housing; 17 people who otherwise may have remained on the streets in Louisville.
“No one person reads the same. So, there's no one system that works for every person,” Rev. Bussey said. “That's what I love about our system—that it honors the individual and it lifts them up.”
It lifts up those who aren’t homeless, too.
Bruce Sweeney said his work with Hope Village brought him purpose and a different path forward.
“I would be in jail here right now. Pretty much would’ve lost my family,” he said. “But other than that, I still have my job, I still have friends. My kids are well taken care of. I'm not in jail. I'm still alive and I’m a better man.”
It is a village that is living up to its name but requires hard work from all involved.
“Hope is not cute. We don't romanticize it. Hope is heavy. Hope is painful sometimes. It’s the one decision you got to be like, ‘Am I going to do this for these people? Am I going to take this drug or am I going to go to rehab?’” Rev. Bussey said. “So, that's what hope is: hope is a consistent battle of my choosing to do the right thing for the one thing.”