DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Two years ago, the Salvation Army of Decatur closed its doors, and that closure left a gaping hole in efforts to relieve the homeless population in Morgan County.
Since then, the homeless population in the city has nearly tripled and efforts to fully re-open the shelter have been a challenge.
According to Morgan County homeless advocates, there are approximately 175 people who are unsheltered each night. That count does not include nearby Limestone County.
Salvation Army Sergeants Jim and Rebecca Lahman would like to change that.
“We were not aware of the homeless situation, and we were made abundantly clear to us that it’s a very dire situation,” said Rebecca Lahman.
The homeless population is now scattered throughout the city with nowhere to stay overnight during the bad weather. “There are folks who really need help…They are living in tents, they’re living on doorsteps. It’s been often difficult to grasp the total because there are so many,” Jim Lahman told News 19.
The Lahmans are taking on a big challenge, and the greatest issue they face is finding the money to make repairs and to hire and maintain staff, as the efforts to raise the money have been a challenge.
“Sometimes it’s hard to compete against Chick-fil-A at $20 an hour. So, it is difficult but with the donations, we can get the building up and running then we will work on the personnel,” Jim Lahman explained.
The Lahmans know if the Salvation Army is not up and running soon that the homeless population will continue to overflow.
“There’s nothing available between here and Huntsville and Florence. Nothing in Morgan County, nothing in Lawrence County and nothing in Limestone County,” said Rebecca Lahman.
Once completed, the new unit would be able to house approximately 150 men for an overnight stay. That’s 150 lives saved from the cold.
The Salvation Army of Decatur continues to operate transitional housing for women and children, a food pantry and church services.
The goal is to re-open the homeless shelter by June 2024.