BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)— Birmingham city leaders estimate there are approximately 1,000 homeless individuals in the area, and the city is looking for better ways to offer a way out for them.
City Councilman Hunter Williams said in the past the city has only offered emergency shelter causing reliance and dependence on that.
He said that method does not address the root cause, which could include mental illness or addiction.
Williams said the homeless population is difficult to solve for a lot of different reasons, saying it’s not ideal for residents or visitors to see groups of homeless people when driving through the city or their neighborhoods.
Williams said it’s important to note, however, that Birmingham doesn’t have as severe of a homeless population or the large tent cities that other areas have.
“If you just look in the southeast and you see the amount of tent cities in cities like Pensacola and other southern cities, we are very, very blessed to have the amount of different social groups and nonprofits that help make sure that is not happening within the city of Birmingham,” said Williams.
While this issue can be frustrating, Williams said the city is working to address it with a certain solution in mind.
The city would like to bring in a pallet shelter program. something that would bridge the gap and significantly decrease the homeless population.
In addition to transitional micro-shelters, non-profits are being selected to provide wrap around services.
“And with that and social workers, we are able to hopefully move a significant portion of that 1,000 approximate, at any given time, homeless population into a house situation and should hopefully be a long-term house situation where there is employment and there is also an opportunity for those individuals and those families to sustain themselves for the long term,” said Williams.
Williams said the program will go before the city council for an official vote after the vendors are selected. There is no exact timeline on that.
Jimmie Hale Mission has served the homeless for decades through similar active recovery efforts.
James Poe said their program works to give a hand up instead of just a handout.
“It’s the old story about if you give a man a fish you’ve just got to feed him for a meal, but if you teach him how to fish then you can change his life, and that’s what we really want to do with the homeless- is not just give them just a meal and just a place to sleep, but literally change their lives,” said Poe, who serves as the SMC Director.
Poe said they see regularly see shortages in various products for the hundreds they serve especially in the summer and winter months, so the need is great for efforts like this.