DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — The number of warm places to stay during frigid weather is nearly non-existent for Decatur residents experiencing homelessness.
Advocates say the main reason is a lack of financial support.
Sue Terrell, executive director of Hands Across Decatur, told News 19 the number of people experiencing homelessness tripled over the last six months and there’s no immediate solution to the growing problem.
“It has tripled since earlier this year,” Terrell said. “It’s frightening and sad.”
Terrell started her organization 10 years ago to protect Decatur’s homeless population from potentially deadly cold nights.
“I can’t imagine being outside without a shelter or a family or a job at any time of the year,” shhe explained. “But it’s going to be minus ten degrees by Friday morning. We may lose somebody within 20 minutes if they are outside at night.”
The money to supply Hands Across Decatur comes from caring givers and money out of Terrell’s pocket.
Terrell says she has gone before Decatur city leaders several times to plead for financial assistance. While Decatur experiences a fast and massive growth in infrastructure and new projects, money to fight the growing homelessness crisis has been left out of the conversation at council meetings.
“I’ve been before them about four times and each time, it was the same answer, and it was zero [dollars],” Terrell explained. “We have the exact same problems with homelessness that the big cities have.”
Terrell says she once served 50 meals a week but now she says they serve 250 hot meals, and that doesn’t include breakfast and lunch. She says if she doesn’t get help from city officials the homeless population will not survive the cold.
“I know most of our homeless people are good people in hard times,” she continued. “I would hope that if I ever hit rock bottom like that somebody would come out and help me so I wouldn’t be a casualty and die in the woods when it’s 10 degrees below zero.”
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling and his wife have announced a personal donation to Hands Across Decatur. To donate to the organization, click here.
The shelter is expected to be open as an emergency overnight shelter beginning Friday morning through Christmas Day.