HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — First Stop is a Huntsville area organization that works with the homeless community.

It is one of eight nonprofits that was recently awarded Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The distribution of that funding was approved by the City of Huntsville.

Through that, First Stop received $75,000 to use towards street outreach.

Jennifer Geist, the Executive Director of First Stop, said the funding is coming at a good time. She said Huntsville is seeing a growing number of homeless people.

“We do see more and more people, new faces,” Geist said.

“Sometimes they are Huntsvillians who have just fallen on hard times, but we’re seeing a bit more of folks that are transplants here,” she said. “They come to Huntsville, you know thinking there’s some opportunities that just don’t pan out, and so we are seeing more [people].”

A city-wide homeless count is done each year. However, Geist said it can be hard to put an exact number on it.

“The problem with the count is we never catch everybody,” she said. “It’s one day a year and it’s very hard. We go places where we see tents but there’s nobody there so we don’t know how many people are staying in there.”

Geist said the recent estimates are 500 to 600 people.

First Stop focuses on working with people who are homeless, and meeting them where they are.

A big part of the work it does is street outreach.

“We go out into the camps, encounter folks where they live, and so we’re able to provide case management services, mental healthcare, physical healthcare.”
The ESG funding specifies First Stop uses the $75,000 for street outreach programs.

Geist said she is thankful for the funding.

“We’ve received it for a couple of years now in a row, and it allows us to do some really important work with the homeless community,” she said.

First Stop also has a day shelter. Currently, it serves between 120 to 150 people per day.

Soon, however, the organization will have a brand new facility that will encompass the day shelter and much more. It is currently under construction.

“Meals will be provided there, and then our case management offices, we’ll have a classroom to do our life skills classes and budgeting classes, a computer lab,” Geist said.

She says construction on the new building should be complete by September of 2023.

Here is the full list of organizations that received Emergency Solutions Grant funding:

  • AshaKiran – $25,000
  • Crisis Services of North Alabama – $30,000
  • Community Action Partnership – $87,000
  • Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #26 – $52,000
  • First Stop – $75,000
  • Family Services Center – $35,000
  • New Futures – $35,000
  • WellStone Behavioral Health – $25,000

For more information on how the grants are helping the community can be found here.