DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – While the city of Decatur continues to grow at a rapid pace, homelessness advocates say money to fight the city’s growing homeless population is left out of the conversation at City Council meetings.
Sue Terrell, executive director of Hands Across Decatur told News 19 that they have gone before Decatur city leaders several times to plead for financial assistance.
Decatur City Council claims that funding is available but it’s only going towards treating mental health for the homeless. Terrell says she is not familiar with any mental health services for the homeless in her community.
“If our mental health conditions are affecting the homeless as much as they say they are, and I believe that they are, then where is the money going?” Terrell questioned. “We have received nothing from City Council.”
Terrell says that she has gone before city leaders to plead for more facility beds at Decatur-Morgan Hospital, to go towards helping to solve a problem that has grown out of control.
“To say that we haven’t done anything I don’t think is exactly accurate,” explains Decatur City Council President Jacob Ladner. “There are needs across this community and across everywhere in every community that are met by nonprofits. People that deal with people in addiction or orphans such as Hands Across Decatur that exists in our community.”
In response to the News 19 inquiry about funding for the homeless, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling responded in a statement that reads in part: “We are also thankful for numerous non-profits who contribute via Grant opportunities to support the unhoused. As for our growing unhoused population, we do see growth in North Alabama from 2021-22… However, it does not appear to be out of line with the growth North Alabama has experienced over previous years.”
Terrell says that Mayor Bowling is relying on the Point-In-Time survey that takes place once a year which allows nonprofits to be eligible for grants. She says the survey doesn’t work because the homeless population changes daily.
“The mayor’s response is so inaccurate. If it was funny, I would laugh at it but it’s not funny at all. I’ve invited Mr. Bowling here several times to come and visit with our homeless as I have done with all city council members. We haven’t received any help at all from the city ever,” said Terrell.
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Terrell told News 19 that the number of people experiencing homelessness had nearly tripled over the last six months. The money to supply Hands Across Decatur comes from caring givers and money out of Terrell’s pocket.