LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Cynthia Hall lost her son, granddaughter and home to gunfire.
All in a matter of two days.
Hall, 53, said she no longer felt safe in her apartment in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood after someone fired more than 75 bullets into the home in the early morning of Feb. 2. Later that day, her son and granddaughter were shot and killed a few miles away.
Now, months later, she and her daughter are sleeping in their car.
“It’s miserable,” Hall said. “… I don’t like asking nobody for nothing. I’ve always been able to get up and get it myself.”
Hall isn’t the only person who’s been forced out of her home by violence in Louisville. Christopher 2X, executive director of local anti-violence nonprofit Game Changers, said he’s had many people — he estimates up to 20 a year — reach out to him after being displaced by violence during his 20 years of advocacy in the city.
A decade ago, those people were concentrated in a few Louisville Metro Police districts, but over recent years it became more of a widespread problem. 2X said he’s gotten calls from people of varied backgrounds living in different neighborhoods around the city.
“It’s grown, and the problem is not just in west Louisville and downtown east Louisville,” 2X said. “… It’s always going to be more heavily concentrated in certain areas, but there’s strong evidence the shootings started to spread.”
From January 2018 to June 2019, a total of more than 4,500 citizen reports of gunshots came in from all eight of Louisville’s police districts, according to data Game Changers received from the city.
After shootings, police may suggest residents leave their homes at least temporarily if there’s reason to believe they could be in danger, LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell said. But for many people, the bullets alone are enough to make them move.
Now 2X is working with city leaders to find a way to help those families. He said he envisions a program that will provide assistance in a way similar to how the Red Cross and other organizations help people displaced by fires, such as paying for temporary housing or helping with moving costs.
His efforts have support from both sides of the aisle in Louisville Metro Council, including from Councilman Anthony Piagentini, R-19th, and President David James, D-6th.
Piagentini said he’s met with 2X to go over some options to address the issue and supports the idea of implementing a program centered around helping those impacted by crime.
“The focus is on the victims, which is where the focus should always be,” he said.
Right now, there aren’t a lot of options for those people to get help in Louisville, especially financially. James said the best the city can do is offer a victim’s advocate to talk about what happened — but that won’t help them find shelter.
“We have citizens that are living real-life situations where their lives are in jeopardy, and they’re scared, and they’ve been traumatized,” James said. “We have to do better.”
RELIEF FUND IN THE WORKS
Jessie Halladay, project manager of Louisville’s Group Violence Intervention program, said the recently launched initiative is in the early stages of creating a fund that would provide resources for people impacted by crime not necessarily covered by the statewide Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
The fund wouldn’t be able to provide financial assistance for an extended period of time but could pay for costs such as immediate temporary lodging, a security deposit or renting a moving truck to help a family relocate.
Halladay said she’s begun researching similar programs in other cities, including a clergy-based nonprofit in Detroit that provides support through fundraising from member churches.
“A lot of people are in those positions where they just can’t afford” to move, Halladay said. “People just don’t really plan for violence to erupt in their lives, and violence has a lot of associated costs with it.”
Mayor Greg Fischer’s budget proposal requests $550,000 for the Group Violence Intervention program, and Halladay said part of that would go toward a victim relief fund, with additional support coming from community partners.
Halladay said she anticipates the fund being run through a partnership between Game Changers and national nonprofit Volunteers of America. It’s still in the formation stages and depends on the city’s budget, which will be voted on June 24. Halladay said she hopes the fund will be ready to launch and start giving assistance by the end of the year.
HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED HELP?
Though violence in the city isn’t a new issue, it’s been on the rise. Louisville saw a record year of violence in 2020 and is on track to beat last year’s totals for homicides and nonfatal shootings. By mid June, the city had at least 90 killings in 2021.
2X said it’s impossible to gauge just how widespread the need for the assistance program is.
“We can’t get an accurate count because so many people try to tough this out,” 2X said. “We have, unfortunately, the invisible kids and families.”
Many people don’t even know where to request assistance, Halladay said.
“It’s hard to even really assess what the need is because we know people don’t necessarily ask for help,” she said. “We want to try to provide a bit of a safety net.”
Karen Bailey, who lives in the Russell neighborhood, could be helped by the assistance program 2X envisions. The 62-year-old has lived in her home for 20 years, but after a stray bullet went through her wall and into the pillow resting under her head the morning of April 19, she knew she had to get out.
Bailey, who is on disability, said she called the Louisville Metro Housing Authority for help but was told there wasn’t anywhere for her to go.
She said the bullet wasn’t the first to enter her home. In 2018, multiple shots struck the house in a late-night shooting. She said she went to the housing authority then, too, but didn’t receive any help.
The bullet holes are still there — filled with plaster, but visible across the home’s exterior and inside the walls of her bedroom, bathroom and dining room.
“I got holes all through the house,” Bailey said. “I see these every day. I hid one of them behind my china cabinet.”
Bailey, who takes care of her 79-year-old aunt, now sleeps in her spare bedroom to leave an extra room and hallway between the walls separating her from the alley where the shootings have happened. She said her son stays over during the night to make her feel safer while she looks for another home.
‘EVERY DAY, WE FEEL HOPELESS’
In Hall’s case, LMPD is investigating but has not made any arrests in the killing of her son and granddaughter, Larry and Larea Hall, and she is constantly worried for her safety. Her 30-year-old daughter, Delnicha Hall, was in their home watching television just before their home was shot up.
“It was shocking. It came out of nowhere,” Delnicha Hall said. “It was a lot of big bullets all around the house, and then not knowing if you’re going to get hit. ... It was just like, is this going to be the end? That’s what it felt like.”
Though they have family in Louisville, Cynthia Hall said most of their relatives don’t feel safe letting them stay with them.
“I’m constantly watching — looking to see if somebody’s following us,” she said. “Every day, we feel hopeless and don’t know what to do.”
Mitchell said LMPD is still investigating the killings of the Halls, which occurred near Interstate 264′s Bells Lane exit, and would not comment further on the case. No arrests have been made in connection to the shooting at her apartment, either.
Hall said she heard about 2X’s Game Changers organization through a neighbor. The nonprofit, which aims to prevent violence long term by promoting education and mentorship, gave her and her daughter some money for food and a place to stay for a few nights.
“It made us feel a little better ... at least somebody’s in our corner,” Hall said.
For people who’ve been through trauma like Hall and her family, it’s common to feel unsafe no matter where they go, 2X said.
That stress is multiplied for the Halls, who also are facing the loss of their son and brother, and his daughter. “And then she still gets displaced for not even being involved in anything,” 2X said of Cynthia Hall. “So you can imagine the amount of stress and emotional strain is off the charts.”
2X said his team is working to help Hall find an apartment that will accept her disability check for rent, and he hopes to be able to pay her deposit and first month’s rent. The Halls also set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses.
In the meantime, 2X has been speaking with Metro Council members about what the city can do.
“People are just suffering in different ways,” Halladay said. “If we can do one little thing to take one burden off their plate, that’s what we would hope this fund could do.”