Decatur nonprofit sees uptick in homeless seeking help


DECATUR, Ala. – Nonprofits dedicated to caring for the homeless have seen a rise in the numbers of people they serve throughout the pandemic, and are doing their best to accommodate everyone. One nonprofit reports their numbers have nearly tripled.

Hands Across Decatur normally serve 15 to 30 clients during this time of the year, but with the pandemic, that number has jumped to 80.

“They’re an invisible community, because people see them and don’t realize they could be one of them at any time, I think we’re finding that out now with what’s going on in the country,” Executive Director Sue Terrell said.

Pandemic-led job loss has forced many people onto the streets and through Executive Director Sue Terrell’s doors. Terrell says there are few places that serve the homeless community in Decatur, so their numbers were already peaking with local visitors, but as shelters in larger cities fill as well, she’s finding more people seeking help from out of town.

“We don’t care where they come from, a lot are coming from Nashville, and Birmingham and Atlanta,” she said.

The small staff of volunteers are doing their best to serve the influx of people with food, clothes, and a warm place to spend the day, but they rely fully on donations, so their supply fluctuates.

“It’s stressful, because we’re a very small organization, and we do what we can here in the office, but even when we’re not in the office, we’re working. Our phone rings, we get texts,” she said.

She says many days they extend their hours, but they aren’t a shelter, so the visitors must sleep somewhere else. Terrell says she wishes they could do more, but for now, she’s getting through each day by faith.

“Faith is huge. Without that, we can’t do anything at all.”

The building in which the organization is based is for sale, which Terrell said is disheartening. She hopes the organization can stay in this location, as it is easy for the homeless community to find. If not, they hope to find somewhere larger to accommodate the swell of visitors they have seen during this pandemic.

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