North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless conducts annual homeless count during cold weather

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The dropping temperatures Tuesday morning coincided with the annual North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (NACH) 'Point in Time' count. The count determines how many people are staying in emergency shelters or on the streets. This year, organizers said many of the city's most vulnerable will seek shelter from the cold -- which can be both an advantage and disadvantage.

"The first question we ask is, 'where did you sleep last night?'" explained Lynn Bullard, a member of the board of directors for NACH.

During cold weather, NACH organizers expect many answers to be a shelter, like the warming center at Grateful Life Community Church.

"To that end, it can be more of an advantage because people who might otherwise be in the woods somewhere in a tent are going to be inside," Bullard said.

However, organizers say there are some who will stay in their tent no matter the condition and fear they will be missed. In extremely cold temperatures, area shelters will make exceptions to who they allow in. One example -- people with pets.

"They'd rather freeze outside than leave their pets," explained Larry Bullard, a volunteer with Grateful Life Community Church. "So, we open our doors and let dogs, cats, snakes birds, whatever come in."

Those who are sleeping on the street, in a shelter, in a vehicle, or condemned building are counted. Last year, NACH counted 369 people in Madison County and 50 in Morgan County.

"Unfortunately, if they were in a hotel room or if they were in the hospital, even if it's just that one night and they've been on the street before and after, HUD does not allow us to count them," said Bullard.

The 'Point in Time' count affects the money coming from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to run permanent supportive housings programs. They will also work with the city of Huntsville to pour resources into reducing the area's homeless rate.

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