By Anna Williams

Recently, there has been an epidemic of office buildings in urban areas losing their anchor tenants. For example, both Humana and Fifth Third Bank announced they will leave their buildings in downtown Louisville, adding to the office vacancy rate.

The reason for these departures is the recent transition from solely in-person work to remote and hybrid work. According to CNN, “…the demand for office space has weakened and property values have fallen.”

Despite this concerning diminishment of “corporate culture,” or the persona of a company business, the closing of corporate businesses in office buildings offers opportunities for service businesses, like homeless services, to expand their outreach in a time of desperate need.

Currently, homeless shelters and services are located all around Louisville, but with a cluster of resources focused around the University of Louisville’s (U of L) campus and downtown. 

Such a cluster is defined by the 11,000 Louisville residents who experience homelessness over the course of the year in the area.

HOPE Village, community for the homeless.

Photo Courtesy // The Courier-Journal

This is a 41% increase from 2018-2021, making the 3,000 shelters that are dedicated to serving the homeless in the Louisville area an inadequate resource number. 

This troublesome availability of shelter is what creates so many instances of homeless people resorting to sleeping in tents under bridges or resulting in begging for change to purchase food and toiletries on U of L’s campus.

If homeless services could relocate to mass urban areas, where homeless people are heavily concentrated, their services would be more efficient. They’d be in direct reach of the people they serve, making supporting that community easier.

Proximity between services and the group they are serving is important because it creates a more intimate relationship of support between the two parties involved. 

Homeless services will be able to more directly see what the homeless community needs and the homeless community will have a support system that they can easily reach and utilize in times of need.

Integrating non-profit services into the buildings that used to occupy big corporate businesses can be a rather lofty, juxtaposed arrangement. 

The financial transition from a small, nonprofit location to a corporate building could be troublesome, but a collaboration with the city of Louisville to set aside funds, possibly through tax money, to invest in the transition can remedy the issue.

Considering the reality of “corporate culture” diminishing and making businesses operate remotely, I think it is worth thinking about the needs of the Louisville community when addressing what to do with these office buildings. The Louisville homeless community is in dire need of shelter and resources to transition out of homelessness. I believe focusing on expanding homeless shelters into vacant office buildings is what will best serve the Louisville community today.

Photo Courtesy // WDRB