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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — Advocates say Decatur city leaders are leaving money to fight the homelessness crisis out of the conversation at council meetings.

Officials are now responding with how they plan to address the growing homeless population.

Sue Terrell of Hands Across Decatur knows a lot about homelessness in the City of Decatur. For over a decade, her organization has provided services for the needy population. 

“There’s no way that you can keep closing your eyes and the problem goes away,” she explained. “You must immerse yourself into the issue.”

News 19 previously reported on Decatur’s homelessness issue with Terrell saying city leaders are not close enough to the situation to do anything about it, including providing funds necessary to solve the problem. 

In response, City Councilmember Hunter Pepper and others told News 19 their hands are tied and they cannot provide funding directly to the city’s homeless advocates.

“A lot of people are asking, ‘What is the city doing to assist with homeless population?’ and there’s not much,” Pepper said. “In a situation like this there’s not much that we really can do. In my personal opinion and from the city’s standpoint, I believe that it’s not good to promote with taxpayer dollars.” 

Decatur City Council President Jacob Ladner says funding nonprofits like Hands Across Decatur to solve homelessness is not in the city’s best interest.

“It’s a mental health and an addiction issue more than a not having a house issue,” Ladner said. “It’s more about mental health and I am proud of the work that council has done to try and address mental health.”

“We’re giving $600,000 this year out of our funding to help fund additional beds for our area for mental health and we’ve hired a mental health liaison with our police department to try and help us specifically with our mental health population,” he continued.

Terrell told News 19 the number of people experiencing homelessness had nearly tripled over the last six months. The money to supply Hands Across Decatur has come from caring givers and money out of Terrell’s pocket.