HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The cities of Huntsville and Decatur have the highest concentration of people living on the street in North Alabama — but space at warming shelters is limited.
Homeless shelters in the cities are also full, leaving some out in the brutal cold with nowhere to keep warm.
News 19 spoke to Sue Terrell, Director of Hands Across Decatur who described what it’s like for a homeless person trying to survive without a place to stay.
“I invite anyone to go outside at 15 degrees and see how long you can stay out there without a coat, without proper shoes, with wet socks on and no shelter,” Terrell said. “You’ll see just how long you can stay out there. I bet you can’t do it for more than five minutes. Now, put yourself in their place.”
The homeless population in both cities has tripled since last December. Many people seeking shelter from the cold now may not find it. Approximately 280 people are living on the street in Decatur with some are still unreported.
The Downtown Rescue Mission and The Salvation Army are reported to be the only two warming shelters open this weekend in Madison County. But homeless shelters like First Stop in Huntsville, are said to be at capacity.
People seeking shelter need to have a state-issued identification card to get in, which most of the homeless population do not have. Hands Across Decatur is one of only three open warming shelters between the two cities.
Carl, who is homeless and looking for shelter, is thankful for a place to come to survive the cold.
“It’s really cold out here and it’s going to be even colder out here tonight,” he said. “I appreciate a place like Hands Across Decatur to be able to help people that’s out in the cold.”
The Salvation Army in Decatur used to be one of the options for Carl and others to go to stay warm overnight, but it closed over a year ago. With temperatures expected to be below zero on Friday night, there is no other immediate solution to the problem of a lack of shelters.