HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – For 15 years Huntsville homeless have found shelter under the I-565 overpass. Soon that will no longer be allowed.
Alabama Department of Transportation officials have announced they plan to close off the area after receiving reports of unsanitary conditions and after barrel fires caused tens-of-thousands of dollars in damage to the overpass.
Now advocates for the homeless and aid organizations are working to find new homes for the approximately 35 people who live in the so-called “Tent City.”
Ed Norman Jr. is one of the homeless veterans living in Tent City. He has been homeless, on and off, for 10 years. He has lived at Tent city for 2 months.
He lives in a small tent that rests on wood pallets. Before this, he lived in the woods.
“It was a situation where you really had to be looking out for yourself,” recalled Norman. “You’re alone and isolated in the woods.”
Norman described his time living in the woods as one full of fear. And he worries once Tent City is disbanded by ALDOT officials, he will have to return to those woods. But his hope is that by January he’ll have a home.
“I want to be able to turn the key and go in the apartment and watch television,” said Norman. “I want to listen to the stereo and take a hot shower. Take three of them a day if I want to! But I can’t do that out here.”
Not all of Huntsville’s homeless have the same dream. Some are content with the
shelters. Others prefer living off the grid.
Advocates for the homeless, like Rusty Loiselle, with Help Our Homeless Veterans and Citizens, are taking all of this into account as they work to aid the homeless population. He visits the people of Tent City frequently, and is considered an ally by the people living under the overpass.
Loiselle described his vision for the homeless community.
“Why don’t we set up a camp ground of sorts, just like you would for any other campground. Have a shower area, port-a-potties, where they can live a decent life while waiting for homes. They can have their own community.”
Loiselle says homelessness will never go away, and they don’t deserve to be ignored.
That is why he has taken his proposal to the Huntsville City Council. He hasn’t received a response, but he hopes with time and community support his vision can become a reality.
“At any given time we are all two paychecks away from being homeless. And if it ever happened to us I’m sure that we’d want help,” said Loiselle. “So we have to look at these folks in the same way. We don’t want them to ever suffer any more than they’re already suffering.”
The residents of Tent City have been given a deadline of January 1st to abandon their location under the I-565 overpass.