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    Glinda Adkins just couldn’t call them trashcans. Sure, other than their neutral tone they were identical to their black and orange brethren stationed in Louisville’s alleys and on curbs, even branded with the same city logo. But as manager of a new storage facility for the belongings of homeless men and women, Adkins was frustrated. The few personal items homeless people hang on to didn’t deserve trashcans. “So we call them bins,” she says.

    A large white tent shields three tidy rows of roughly 70 bins, each labeled with a name and number, each fastened with a lock. In late March, the St. John Center for Homeless Men opened this facility in the parking lot of the now-closed First Link Grocery on East Liberty Street. Along with the bins, the facility has four shipping containers (once used by the former ReSurfaced outdoor event space in Phoenix Hill) lined with 160 lockers — some old and donated by TARC, others new and bought with grants and $45,000 in surplus that Metro Council earmarked for the facility. (In December, Metro Council put about $565,000 in surplus toward emergency homeless services.)

    As of this morning in early April, nearly 80 clients have used the facility. (The only things Adkins doesn’t allow people to store in the facility are illegal drugs and food.) About a week before, the city cleared the homeless encampment that stretched along Jefferson Street under a downtown overpass. On that day, an outreach team from St. John’s and Uniting Partners for Women assisted those affected by the sweep, driving them to recovery centers, shelters or other camps. Adkins says 12 new clients showed up at the facility that day and in the days following, all in need of secure storage. The surplus funds run out at the end of June, and with a $35-million budget shortfall looming, funding for the facility is unclear. “We are committed to this project,” St. John’s executive director Maria Price says.


    There are roughly 70 bins, plus some 160 lockers, at the storage facility for homeless men and women on East Liberty Street.

    A client walks through a tall chain-link fence that’s kept locked when the facility is closed. The middle-aged man with a trim beard stops at a card table manned by St. John’s staff and a volunteer, where boxes of sugar cookies and doughnuts are open, there for the taking. A staff person retrieves the man’s bin, rolling it across the gravel lot and unlocking it for him. If you’re on the streets, or even in a shelter, it’s not uncommon to have belongings stolen, especially medication or money. (Because some overnight shelters don’t even allow bags of personal belongings, some homeless men and women choose to stay in camps.) After a downtown storage facility for homeless people stopped offering service to men in October, the need became apparent. Price saw it in the form of men hauling in loads that had swollen. Adkins says that, since opening, she has heard stories of folks relieved they can go to a restaurant or job without carrying the bundles and bags that give away their homelessness. “This allows them to walk in (someplace) like you or I,” she says.

    With a light rain freckling his glasses, the man digs through his bin, lifting an “80-pound” bag. “Thank you,” he says to Adkins, blowing her a kiss. “I had to carry this around!” He finds the plastic Walmart bag he was looking for and picks out some dry clothes — blue shorts and a dragon T-shirt, price tags still dangling.

    “New clothes!” Adkins says. “Nice.”

    “I’m homeless,” the man says in a playful, comedic way, “but I’m no bum.”

    This originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Safe Keeping." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos by Mickie Winters, mickiewinters.com

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